Gerry kindly shared his thoughts on The Fantastic Reality of Frederick Goodge and his future plans with the Camden Fringe Voyeur.
CV: Where did the original idea for the show come from, how did you develop it and how long did it take to write?
GH: The original idea for the show came from last year’s show which was mainly a stand-up show but featured a couple of scenes featuring the character of Frederick Goodge. Although a lot of people were confused by these scenes appearing in a stand-up show, I knew wanted to develop the idea of fusing stand-up with storytelling and some character comedy and even (hopefully) the odd moment of drama.
By coincidence, at around the same time I had been writing a story about a man who’s struggling to make any headway in his life and really wants to be a writer but then gets mixed up in the private investigation business and embarks on a mission to find a missing person who doesn’t really exist, except in a story he’s writing.
So I had the basic plot already worked out, and the kind of show I wanted to do in mind – then I spent several months blending the content into the form and the result is the show you saw the other night…
CV: Did the character of Frederick Goodge come before the plot? How much is Frederick Goodge an extension of yourself and your stage persona?
GH: Yes, I already had the character of Frederick Goodge, although I didn’t know his name or the sequence of events that would eventually become the narrative of the show. Frederick Goodge is a sort of exaggerated persona of mine, we share the same basic philosophy of life, the same hopes, aspirations, anxieties, some of the more eccentric and neurotic characteristics have been heightened for comic and/or tragic effect. But essentially, we are the same person; that is the premise of the show – it wouldn’t work otherwise – it allows me to slip in and out of character freely and spontaneously, to knock down the 4th wall and address the audience, all the time trying to strike the balance between stand-up and theatre.
CV: Do you see yourself exploring this type of one man show in the future as an alternative to stand-up, or will you continue to do both? Do you find the structure afforded by a play or one man show like …Frederick Goodge… preferable to the structure of a stand-up act?
GH: So far, I am enjoying this show a lot more than last year’s. Bizarrely, given the more structured and scripted nature of the show, I feel it has given me a lot more freedom to play around within its confines. Something to push against, bounce off as it were. I love playing with the form and surprising the audience, constantly re-defining the sort of show it is, I know some people have been confused by this but on the whole, the response has been great. People who enjoy stand-up appreciate the added elements of plot and character, (the time and space to reflect) and theatre fans have enjoyed the jokes, the loose, informal ad-libbing style of delivery and performance. I will definitely continue to explore this kind of show which enables me to write and act and tell jokes and do all the things I like doing – all in one.
CV: What’s next for The Fantastic Reality of Frederick Goodge? And for Gerry Howell?
GH: So many people who have seen the show have asked me why I am not in Edinburgh and I thought I had some very good reasons for not being there: money, money, money, whatever happened to the original ethos and spirit of the fringe? There are movements to revive it, but up against a grotesque over commercialisation, a kind of cattle call mentality, the maddening, moronic atmosphere of industrial competition / the oafish cynical desire to get better reviews than the next show and be more popular and on TV and become FAMOUS because that is what it means to be successful as an artist, a person, a human being…the reality is I really believe in my show and I want people to see it so I’ll probably be in Edinburgh next year either with Frederick Goodge or a new show I haven’t written yet but one that will be even better and hopefully commercially viable too – that would be nice…