Always the prince: Gareth Gates comes to Croydon


By - Friday 5th December, 2014

Before stepping out as Prince Charming this evening, on the opening night of Fairfields Halls’ Christmas pantomime Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Gareth Gates had a chat with Bernadette Fallon


Gareth Gates.
Photo by Fairfield Halls, used with permission.

From the adulation of millions in the heady days of the first-ever Pop Idol phenomenon, to the stage of Fairfield Halls for the Croydon Christmas panto: it’s been quite a journey for Gareth Gates. But maybe not exactly the journey he would have imagined for himself back in those million-selling record days?

He, however, has a very positive take on his life so far. “I’ve always been very busy and I’m very grateful for that.”

So yes, there’ve been the four number one singles, the millions of records sold, the famous head-to-head with Will Young in the Pop Idol final when a nation collectively gasped as the winner was revealed as not Gareth – what? – but Will. Will the posh boy, the privileged one; Gareth, stammering his way through interviews but singing word and note perfect.

In my mind, Pop Idol was just a small talent show

Looking back on those early days, what advice would he give to his younger self, the 17-year-old Pop Idol finalist?

“I’d say have fun, just go with it. That series of Pop Idol was the first of its kind, nobody knew what it would become. In my mind I was just entering a small talent show – but it changed my life. And I’ve been fortunate ever since. I’ve never stopped working.”

From entering a ‘small talent show’ to holding millions of viewers captivated every Saturday night, it must have been one hell of a roller coaster. He’s relaxed about it all however.

“I was young, I didn’t ask any questions. I just accepted it. But yes, being thrown into the middle of all that attention is a bit crazy.”

He explains that he always knew he would end up working in music – as music had always been a part of his life.

“When I was a child I wasn’t able to speak properly at all, a lot of the time I just couldn’t get any words out. But I could sing the words, and music became my form of release.”

Getting on stage after battling a stammer in rehearsals is a challenge

Ah yes. The stammer. The aspect of Gareth’s story that became as famous as he did. The stammer is still an issue every time he faces a new show.

“This is my sixth panto. I’ve always played the prince but it’s always a challenge. I’m naturally finding things more difficult than the rest of the actors in Croydon because of my stammer. The end result is always the same – by the time I get on stage for the show my speech is fine – but the process takes longer for me. I have a speech guy who comes down and helps out – but it’s mostly about the rest of the cast being patient and comfortable with it in rehearsals.”

Getting up on stage after battling weeks of stammering through rehearsals and knowing you have to be word perfect? A challenge? Well that’s an understatement.

Despite this, he’s played leading roles in West End musicals including Les Miserables and Joseph and His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. He’s taken roles in Legally Blonde and Loserville.

“I’ve also done straightforward theatre that’s all speech and no music,” he adds. “I eventually get into the character, adopt a totally different persona, and my speech is completely fine. It just takes me a while to get there.”

When the crowd’s up for it, panto is brilliant

So, how will playing Croydon compare to the West End stage?

“Playing in the West End is totally different, it’s a different type of show. Les Mis, for example, was very serious, though of course it’s a great experience and learning curve. But panto is just such fun – you can have such a laugh doing it. I love the script the production company, Evolution, has developed for the show – it’s written for both adults and children and there will be lots of audience interaction. When the crowd’s up for it, it’s brilliant.”

There you go, your chance to come and interact with a multi-million-record-selling artist here in Croydon. And might we see his old mentor Simon Cowell in the audience?

“We chat every so often, we’re often at the same events. Yes, it would be great if he came to the show.”

Gareth has very much moved with the times and kept busy – as he says, never out of work. So far this year there’s been Dancing on Ice, the Champion of Champions tour, following his first appearance on the show back in 2008. There was the Big Reunion arena tour in summer as part of pop super-group 5th Story, with former pin-up pop-sters Dane Bowers, Adam Rickitt, Kavana and Kenzie. And, more recently, an acoustic tour of the UK that had fans posting excitedly all over Twitter, which ended the week before rehearsals for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs began. Writing some of his own music these days, he describes his sound as “still pop, but older pop”.

He’s delighted to be playing in Croydon

It’s a gruelling schedule for the panto; two shows a day for the entire run, with only Mondays, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day off. He shrugs it off with a laugh. “I’ve done pantos where we’ve had three shows a day, so this is an easy one for me.”

He’s also delighted to be playing in Croydon, as it means he can go home to Chiswick every night.

“Most years I have to spend six weeks away from home, when I’m doing panto in other parts of the country. This way I get to spend Christmas at home.”

He won’t, he reveals, be cooking his own dinner on Christmas Day though.

“My family’s coming down from Bradford. My mum will be doing the turkey.”

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs runs at Fairfield Halls from 5th December to 5th January. For more information and booking phone 020 8688 9291 or visit www.fairfield.co.uk

Bernadette Fallon

Bernadette Fallon

Bernadette has been a journalist since the age of 7 when she devised, designed and launched ‘Fallon’s News’ – much to her family’s delight. Brought up in Ireland, she was born in Addiscombe where she now lives, though it took her several decades to find it again. She works as a journalist and broadcaster. Follow her at Twitter.com/bernibee

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