It’s not every day that you get to spend roughly five hours in the company of someone who is reported to be “the nicest person in showbiz” – but that I did. Renowned for being the maestro of makeovers, Gok Wan is soon to play the Fairy Gokmother (yes, you did read that correctly – Gokmother) in Cinderella at Cardiff’s New Theatre. Perhaps this is a daring thing to do, tinkering with the name.
Even Gok agrees. “If you think about it, it is a little bit controversial because it’s such a well-known part. It’s a huge thing to change one of the main characters’ names; it’s like going from Cinderella to Cinderbella! But if you think about it, the job that I do every day, which is delivering the makeover, and you know, making people’s dreams come true.”
Being somewhat of a veteran now at performing in panto, I asked how straightforward it was for a non-actor like Gok to get into the swing of things initially. “A lot of people think is just a load of adults dressed as very flamboyant characters, but the skill set of being able to do panto is unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced,” he says.
Pantomime is a very British tradition, only something that you will find on our shores. Yet, behind all the flamboyancy, it means so much to the smaller theatres around the UK, as Gok explains. “It’s essential for smaller theatres around the country, because often you’ll be bringing in a large percentage of your annual sales from pantomime. If pantomime didn’t exist, it would have a knock-on effect to the rest of the diary for the year. There’ll be other smaller, one-off or contemporary shows that wouldn’t ever get to make it onto the stage because there would be no funding behind it. And so, pantomime – not only is it brilliant, not only is it beautiful, not only is it fun, but it’s very, very important for the economic world of theatre.”
And do I think he is the nicest person in showbiz? Hell yeah!
words CARL MARSH
Cinderella, New Theatre, Cardiff, Sat 7 Dec-Sun 12 Jan. Tickets: £16-£40. Info: 029 2087 8889 / www.newtheatrecardiff.co.uk