"This is my 3rd Panto and I've played the prince both times before"So Aladdin, is it your first time playing Aladdin?
I've done two Panto's before, this is my 3rd Panto and I've played the prince both times before. This is the first time playing Aladdin and I am really looking forward to it. My young daughter is 2 and a half and it's her favourite Disney film so I am sure she is looking forward to seeing daddy play the part.
And how about Milton Keynes, have you been here before?
I have done various radio interviews and promotional tours so I have been here a few times. Never really spent a lot of time here and I have never been to the theatre actually.
What do you think of the Theatre?
It's great, had a bit of a guided tour of the auditorium earlier on and its lovely and yeah its really big as well. Looking forward to a thousand plus screaming kids it should be fun.
What is it about pantomime that you love? You have been in the west end and going from that to panto is very different, a complete contrast.
Yes it's very different, I have just finished Les Miserable in the west end which I did for 6 months, a year before that I did the 25th anniversary tour so pantomime is just a great release, it's quite fun, not as rigid and as structured which means you can enjoy it and interact with the audience.
So how is it obviously with the stammer, how does it affect you when you are on stage?
Yes well I am part of a speech therapy programme called the Maguire programme. 90% of the stammer is psychological so it's about facing those fears head on, for instance what you are most scared about, your fears. Whether it's being scared of speaking to strangers or new people, so we force ourselves to go out and meet people and it's those things help you handle a speaking situation. And on stage it's no different really. Learning a script, I have to start off very slow mechanically, speaking slowly for the first couple of days of rehearsal, but once I've done that and exposed myself to the script I can start to build on confidence and become more fluent and then the end result is what any actor would end up doing. What helps as well is adopting a different persona. I'm not Gareth Gates I'm Aladdin, standing how he stands or speaking how he speaks, it all helps.
So what is it that is different about singing, because when you sing you don't stammer?
Well I think it's the same as what I was saying, adopting a different persona, I become Gareth the singer, maybe it's the breathing, maybe it's because I've always had a positive response to my singing, thankfully. It gives you a lift in confidence so when I go into singing I am more confident where as speaking I am picked up on being wrong. I think it's a combination of all those things.
I understand you are now a qualified coach for people who stammer, how hard has it been to get to where you are now with your speech?
Well it's very important to say it's not a cure, it's an on-going thing I have t keep working on. Days where I don't I slip up still. I have horrendous days. But today I have achieved so much because I have done 20 odd interviews and my coach Chris was there for the first 10 and as it went on he moved further and further away. The past 3 I have done without him.
Is that a psychological thing having him there?
Yeah, he has a stammer as well and he helps me if I am speaking too fast or he will tell me if I have slipped up. He isn't being nasty, he is just giving a bit of support. So yeah, I have forgot your question?
*Lots of laughs*
Here on Fit4Talent we are about giving support and advice, so what advice can you give to someone who is maybe a bit nervous about stepping into the industry with a disability of some kind?
There is room for everybody in the industry, I could of easily not gone for auditions and interviews in the past due to humiliation and embarrassment you feel whilst stammering on a live TV interview but I always knew that If I sung I would be fine so I never really let it over shadow my talent. Music was my release, I was never able to speak at all as a child and I could never get out of me what was in me, and so, I spent hours and hours on the piano and guitar practising and singing because that was my only form of expression and I think that is why I Excelled in music. So my advice is to anyone with a disability, find something whatever that may be, performing music.. whatever, just put your mind to it and excel at it, it will give you massive confidence.
Back to the Pantomime, you are working with Paul Burling off Britain's Got Talent, how is he? How has it been working with him?
I am very honoured to be working with Paul, he is a great character. For someone like me who is naturally quite shy because of the stammer and holds back quite a bit because of my speech it's great to be around people like him who is all about the talk and impressions so I am hoping he may rub off on me.
He did say he was going to do an impression of you
It wouldn't be hard, he would just sit there. But he is a real good laugh and a job like this means it's great to have people like him around because it is hard work, 12 shows a week, two shows a day with one day off.
I understand you are opening a drama school in Milton Keynes with Jonathan Wilkes?
We opened one recently in Bradford, we have over 70 kids and have only been open 4 weeks. We will probably have to open a second date up there which is great. So we thought there is a couple around the country, so why not open one in Milton Keynes he is down in Aylesbury doing pantomime this Xmas so we thought we would join forces and open one in Milton Keynes. It's a great opportunity to give back our experience to people who may want to follow in the same footsteps we did. Singing dancing and acting are the performing arts and we are going to get involved in the teaching so I will be in Milton Keynes a lot more.
We have got some big named friends in the industry who will come down and help out too.
www.gateswilkesacademy.co.uk is the website and our email address is email@example.com.
Well it has been great talking to you Gareth , thank you for spending this time with us this afternoon.
No problem at all, I look forward to seeing you at the Pantomime very soon.