INTERVIEW: Gok Wan talks to Total MK's Sammy Jones

It's a Sunday morning and he was working until the early hours, and yet when Gok Wan arrives he is all bright eyed and bubbly, writes Sammy Jones.
And when he bumps into Brian Conley, his panto co-star in Cinderella, which they are in MK to promote?

Well, the pair are positively ecstatic to meet each others' acquaintance again.

It's a little bit like a hyper version of Long Lost Family!

"I love Brian, I really do love him," Gok tells me a little while later, "...slightly inappropriately sometimes," he says with a cheeky laugh.
And when Gok first met Brian he knew they would be lifelong buddies: "When I first met him in a rehearsal room, within an hour I knew it," he recalls, "He is incredible..."

This is the fifth year that Gok has signed up for panto, and his third seasonal show with Brian.
"To be honest with you, every single year I say 'That's it, I'm not doing another one...I'm going to have Christmas with the family and I am going to relax.'
"And then Brian calls me up and says 'So, we're going to Milton Keynes,'" Gok says, adopting a mock deep voice, "What do you reckon? Are you going to do it?"
"But I really look forward to it - it is six weeks of absolute debauched fun.
"It doesn't feel like a job in the slightest..."

We imagine the trickiest job on the panto roll call must be that of wardrobe assistant for Mr Wan. A fella who knows fashion better than anyone.
But that's not so: "When I first signed to do panto, I said I'm relinquishing my 22 years working in fashion," he tells me, "I'm not a costume designer and I couldn't create the most imcredible work that the show guys do. So actually for me, it is almost like having a sabbatical. I completely let myself go and whatever they want to dress me in, I never argue, I just put it on and say 'You know what's best.'

"My job is to put the costume on and entertain. I really enjoy the idea of completely purging on someone else's creativity."


And that's exactly what he'll do when the curtain rises on December 9, the start of a Crimbo stint raising smiles here in the new city.

Milton Keynes really has got the cream of the crop this time around.

"A huge amount of hard work goes into it, but people really do live up to their speciality, their expertise.
"So by the time you get into the show, if everyone is manning their corner and injecting what they need to do, all of that hard work gets polarised and it becomes the most incredible machine you've ever seen.

"I've never experienced anything like it," he admits, "Usually, everyone is covering everyone's jobs. This is a unique way of putting a show together."


But before the glitter and pizzazz of panto comes calling, Gok is out with his own one-man show, Naked & Baring All.

It's proving a sell-out success, but it's a crazy schedule. How does Gok keep the motor turning, so to speak?
"It's about being really organised," he says, "I don't want to make it sound like I am some really weird workhourse, because I love work, but as long as you schedule it, it's the same as any other job," he says.
"Work is about living and living is about work, for me anyway.

"Some people work because they need to pay their bills, and that's fine. but I really, really love going to work. This is like playtime for me - as you've seen!
" meet the most amazing people and you work with your mates. It's great fun!"


Which brings us back full circle to panto again, then.

"There is a mutual respect I've never had with anybody before," he says, talking about Mr Conley again, "We have this brilliant dynamic. I am really bossy, he is the naughty schoolboy and we laugh and laugh!

"When you put that with a great script, a great storyline, an incredible set and amazing lights and music, and brilliant performers, you get this little bit of electricity and you can't explain what it is...."

He smiles again: "I think Simon Cowell has been looking for that for years and he doesn't realise it's here!"



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