INTERVIEW: Gareth Williams on Faux Real

Faux Real - Gareth Williams
Faux Real

…and his John Farnham man-crush. [by James Wenley]

Faux Real - Gareth Williams
“He’s a chump, and he’s really, really earnest… but he’s the Voice!”

You could say Gareth Williams is a bit of a John Farnham fan. So much so, that he made the Aussie rock icon, famous for hits such as You’re the Voice and Pressure Down, a major character in his solo comedy show Faux Real. Or rather, a voice who enters the world of Gareth’s character’s dreams, and wants to make him the next big thing in pop rock music. Together with a pet desk lamp (yes, a pet desk lamp) our hero travels with Johnny Farnham to Ayers Rock, home of all pop rock.

Since graduating Toi Whakaari Drama School, and then later moving to Auckland, Gareth has enjoyed what many actors envy – a sustained and varied career. He’s had roles in The Lonesome Buckwhips, The Dentist’s Chair, Apollo 13, and last year I interviewed Gareth for Craccum Magazine as he prepared to take on the dual roles of the Balladeer and Lee Harvey Oswald in Silo’s Assassins.

For Faux Real, together with director Dan Musgrove, he has created a role and show tailor made for himself. It debuted at the Basement Theatre last year, and now with STAMP at The Edge’s support is back, bigger and better, as part of the 2011 International Comedy Festival.

Faux Real sounds like a pretty far out idea for a show… how did you and Dan come together to create something like that in the first place?

I wanted to make a show with similar themes about dreaming, or at least a show that involved some sort of dream world. Then I think John Farnham one day, and I thought it would be interesting for someone to meet John Farnham, or for John Farnham to be a character in something. And that’s how it kind of germinated into him being a Goblin King figure, and ‘what if John Farnham was in a fantastical kind of world?’. It’s a comedy so it’s meant to be silly and funny, obviously if John Farnham was a God in your dream it couldn’t possibly be serious. But he is a pretty earnest person if you watch him on YouTube… its pretty hilarious.

Do you like John Farnham’s music? Are you a fan?

I love John Farnham, I’m afraid to say. He’s a chump, and he’s really, really earnest… but he’s the Voice! I think he’s great fun to take the piss out of as well. There is a respect at the same time, but the way we have in the show… we don’t completely take the piss out of him, but the idea is that its meant to be funny that John Farnham out of all people has come to the main character wanting him to be a pop act because he himself is washed up.

Do you have any interesting John Farnham trivia?

I don’t know if people know this but he’s got his own bronze statue in the docklands of Melbourne, which is where he’s from.

That’s success there isn’t it!

He’s huge over there, it’s hilarious. He is literally like a God, which is kind of what we play on a bit too, the fact that in the show he kind of thinks he’s the man. I don’t know if he does in real life or not… but I’m pretty sure he does to some extent.

You had the debut season of Faux Real last year at the Basement, now it’s back for the Comedy Festival. Have you changed much in the show?

A lot has changed actually. The premise is the same, and the themes are kind of the same, but the story has changed a little bit in terms of what happens in the dream world. The idea of meeting John Farnham, and the journey, and the lamp that’s all similar. We basically threw out the trash and kept the really good bits! We made it more coherent really.

I imagine it must be very satisfying as an actor doing a solo show or your own creation?

You can kind of do what you want, creatively I guess because you make it, and you can rehearse it the way you want it – it’s all in your own time and you can kind of be in charge of everything. Which can be good and bad really – if the buck stops with you there’s a lot of responsibility. So you have to get someone you trust with an outside eye to see the things that you can’t. But it’s great when you’re performing it, and I’ve prepared all this external audio and video things, it’s something that’s really fun. It’s basically everything that’s you onstage and your ideas.

Do you have any plans to tour Faux Real to Australia?

I would like to go Melbourne actually with it, or at least develop a similar concept for Melbourne. It’s kind of universal – there’s nothing particularly New Zealand about the show or particularly Australian. I guess John Farnham, and there are some other Australian pop rock icons like Jimmy Barnes and people like that… I guess in that way its Australian, but it’s kind of something that is Australia and New Zealand. I would love to take it there.

I imagine all the rapid John Farnham fans would be dying out for a show like this…

That’s the thing, we’ve tried in our advertisements for Auckland to try and target that market a little bit. There are obviously heeaaps of John Farnham fans out there – actual, genuine ones – and we’re trying to get them to come to the show as they probably wouldn’t come to the theatre maybe, or at least to see solo shows by people they haven’t heard of before.

Where do the Farnham fans hang out in Auckland?

Well… I don’t know… everywhere I guess… you can probably imagine out West. We are advertising on Solid Gold FM to try and target people… I don’t know who these people are, they’re kind of everywhere. I imagine they are probably older for one, but I think they’d appreciate the show, even die-hard John Farnham fans would appreciate it for just the fact that he’s kind of it. And there is a bit of John Farnham music and singing and things like that.

What sort of response did you get from the audience the first time round?

Really good. That’s why we wanted to do it again, then it wasn’t going to be possible, then STAMP suggested we do it with them for the new season. They come on board with a lot of assistance, you’re able to mount it again, because it’s quite expensive to mount, and it made it possible to do it again. I knew there was going to be an audience out there for it again.

What kind of an evening will audiences get when they come to Faux Real?

They’ll get a pretty jam-packed hour of fun… they’re going to get songs, dances… they’re going to get me riding on a lamp across the stage… a lot of physical comedy, musical comedy, and a lot of audio-visual interaction… so it’s kind of like a spectacular on a small scale. That’s what we try and go for – a rock concert packed into a tiny venue.

Faux Real plays at the Herald Theatre 2-7 May as part of the NZ International Comedy Festival

More information at the Faux Real website.

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