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Brief Encounter With … Scott Garnham

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Scott Garnham only graduated from The Royal Scottish Academy Of Music and Drama three years ago, yet since then he has appeared on the West End stage in Eurobeat, recently performed in New York and currently has a lead role in the UK tour of the hit Take That musical, Never Forget which arives in Liverpool in December. We caught up with him to talk about the cult of celebrity, his love of Ricky Gervais and why he thinks the Take That inspired Juke- Box musical is such a memorable night out.

Place Of Birth
Malton (Near York)

Lives now
in London

When did you first realise that you wanted to perform?
It sort of crept up on me. I can’t remember wanting to do anything else to be honest. When I was young I was one of those children that never seemed to stick at anything. I’d do scouts or football for a couple of weeks but nothing really interested me. Then my parents sent me to drama classes at a local performing arts centre called Kirkham Henry. At first it was just a hobby, a place to have fun and play games but slowly as I grew older I developed a real passion for it. I loved the escapism acting provided and enjoyed portraying characters and performing to an audience. I suppose soon as I felt the ‘buzz’, you here lots of actors talk about, I was never going to do anything else… acting made sense to me and I was good at it.

You got great reviews for Eurobeat. Did the experience help you with the comedic elements of Never Forget?
When Eurobeat opened in the West End one paper wrote that “…Scott Garnham gave a stand out performance” and the same day another paper wrote “Scott Garnham did an embarrassing Daniel O’ Donnell impersonation” so I try my hardest to take all reviews with a pinch of salt. At the end of the day it’s someone’s opinion and with the Internet in nearly every household in the UK everyone is more than happy to voice theirs. It’s wonderful for the ego to have nice things said about you but ultimately you’ve got to have great self-belief otherwise you’d go a little crazy. Being a part of Eurobeat definitely helped with Never Forget. Both were very open and creative rehearsal processes with the directors (Glynn Nicholas Eurobeat & Ed Curtis Never Forget) giving the actors a lot of freedom to discover and re-create the roles.

Is there anyone you would still like to meet and why?
I would love to meet Ricky Gervais. I think the man is a genius. I remember always being underwhelmed by situation comedies on TV and then seeing The Office and thinking “yes this is what comedy should and can be.” Admittedly since then I’ve seen things that were around before The Office and think these are also fantastic i.e. Spaced, The Larry Sanders Show, Brass Eye, etc. I would love to pick his brain about how he approaches comedy and why things seem funny to him. I think he has such a unique way of looking at something and then writing about it.

What do you enjoy about being in Never Forget?
I feel very privileged to be working with a really talented cast! I spend the majority of the show with four other boys as we represent the different members of Take That in the tribute band (Mark Willshire, Adam C Booth, Philip Olivier & Tom Bradley) and we have a great laugh every night. It’s a fantastic feel good show and when we reach the mega mix at the end, with the entire audience on their feet singing along, it’s hard not to feel like you actually are Take That. I’m also a bit of a closet Take That fan so I can’t deny I enjoy singing the songs.

What was the last thing you saw on stage that you really enjoyed and why?
I worked on a play in New York just after Christmas and I was really looking forward to seeing a Broadway show. Everybody had spoke to me about how high the standard was and how I was going to be blown away but unfortunately I must have picked the wrong shows. I went to see Phantom of the Opera and Shrek – The Musical and although the performances were excellent the shows both left me really cold. So it was a show in London that last got me very excited by theatre and what it still has the power to do, if done well!?!  Into The Hoods at the Novello Theatre was just fantastic. Not only were all the cast ridiculously talented but the show was well constructed and brought a cult genre to a commercial audience, which is near on impossible in the UK. Truly Amazing!

And the first?
My Mum and Nan took me to see Oliver in the west end and I remember thinking there can be nothing better than this!! Being a child, everything about the show blew me away from hearing an orchestra play those fantastic songs to the large screen that simulated Oliver running through the streets of London. I was even impressed with a large Jelly that got carried across the stage during “Food, Glorious, Food.” So much of that production has stayed with me and it was a real turning point for me. I suppose after that I never really looked at a show or piece of theatre in the same way again. I’ve become a tough critic and still to this day I haven’t seen many things that have impressed me the way that production impressed a ten year old me.

Favourite books
Lord of the Flies is my favourite book of all time. I must have read it twenty times since I first discovered it in GCSE English. Every time I read it I imagine it like a Tim Burton film and how fantastic a new remake would be. Pilot Theatre Company have produced a fantastic play version of the book, which I believe is currently touring, if you get chance to see it I would highly recommend it.

What can people expect from the show?
A fantastic night out!! It’s a really fun show with a lot of comedy and some really touching moments. It’s been brilliant to look out and see so many different age groups. We’ve had hen parties, school kids and OAPs all come to the show and leave singing “Relight My Fire.”

What attracted you to the role of José? Tell us a bit about him…
I love performing comedy and the idea of playing a wide-eyed Spaniard who has travelled to Manchester to appear as Jason Orange in a Take That tribute band just sounded very funny to me. On the surface Jose is a one trick pony… you say something with a comedy Spanish accent and the lost in translation joke will always get a laugh. It’s the Manuel, from Fawlty Towers, syndrome. But what I love about the character is that he has this inner dialogue going on throughout the show. I try to imagine that he thinks everybody is on his wavelength and that certain situations will play out the way he imagines them. Ed Curtis, the director, was really open to re-creating the character and even re-writing dialogue to suit the way we both wanted José to be perceived. One of my favourite bits in the show is when he’s auditioning for the band and he produces a note from his mother that informs Ron, the band manager, that José is “the under twelve flamenco champion of Sevilla.” It sounds very grand and impressive when actually, if you take it as face value, means that when he was eleven he won a dance competition in his hometown. This sums up José for me…!

What type of roles would you like to take on next?
I’d actually like to tackle something a bit more serious. I love comedy, obviously, but I don’t want to get pigeon holed into always playing the fool. I did some fantastic serious roles whilst training at the RSAMD and I got the same kick from making people cry as I get from making them laugh. I also think that some of the best comedians do serious roles incredibly well and I hope that someone will be willing to take that chance on me… Even if my last two roles have been a clumsy Irish balladeer and a Spanish wannabe pop star!

What do you enjoy the most about being a performer?
I love rehearsals and then the first week of the job. It’s all about the creative process for me. I’ve been very fortunate in that way as there are so many musicals that won’t and don’t give you that opportunity to be creative. I can guarantee that if you see Phantom on Broadway it will be almost identical in the West End etc. This just doesn’t interest me. If I can’t put a bit of myself into the role and discover new things with it then I can’t see the point, you might as well employ a puppet.

And the worst?
There is a horrible celebrity culture that has been born over the past ten years and in my opinion it’s ruining the industry. People now aspire to be famous and worry less about the work or quality of the work they produce. I have many incredibly talented friends who are out of work because a celebrity was offered a role over them. Don’t get me wrong, there are many very talented celebrities playing roles brilliantly but it’s when they are cast just because they were in Big Brother, etc it becomes an issue for me!

Jukebox musicals are often criticised, as there are so many of them. Why should people come to see Never Forget?
Jukebox shows are often given a rough time and Never Forget is no exception. But Jukebox shows have been around years! There are three shows that I know of featuring the exact same Gershwin songs in all three. Do we class these as Jukebox shows if the songs were popular at the time and then put into musicals afterwards?! I think we need to accept that in these uncertain times people want to go out to the theatre with their families or friends and know that when they pay their hard earned cash for a ticket they are going to get a guaranteed good night out. Never Forget does exactly that. It’s a story about friendship, good triumphing over bad and all set around the songs we listened to whilst growing up. It has some really funny moments and some quite sad. The dancing is amazing, the singing is fantastic and there is even the most impressive rain curtain I’ve ever seen. What more could anyone want?!

What are your plans when the tour is over?
Well we still have a good few months left on the tour and I'm not wishing it away but I suppose it would be fair to say that I've been chatting with my agent about possible future projects. I'm also in the process of writing a comedy with fellow cast member Adam C Booth and we're hoping to show it at the EdFringe Festival in 2011.We don't want to say too much at the moment but the 'untitled' project is based on the story of Faust, where a man makes a deal with the devil in return for his soul, we're both excited about it and really enjoying our time writing together.

Scott Garnham was speaking to Glenn Meads.

Never Forget tours to the Liverpool Empire from 1 - 5 December. For further tour dates please click here.


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