Matthew Hardy, the man behind bringing “Veruca Salt” to the Fringe talks to Three Weeks about the journey to his show; Willy Wonka; the Veruca Salt Sessions.
Many comedy shows at the Edinburgh Fringe have quirky premises, but Matthew Hardy’s possibly wins the prize for being the quirkiest this year. And if he does, by some weird turn of fate, miss out on that particular accolade, he can surely be assured the Stalker Of The Fringe award instead.
Hardy told ThreeWeeks about the premise to ‘The Veruca Salt Sessions’ this weekend. “The first time I ever saw a film in a cinema, aged five”, he explains, “it was the original seventies version of ‘Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory’. I thought I was actually in every scene, and that the camera’s eyes were mine. I was totally enraptured”.
“Then Veruca Salt came on screen”, he reminisces, “and my world shifted on its axis. A little girl, bossing the adults about – including her Dad?! I was too young to understand love but I had an urge to pull her hair, right then and there”.
“Cut to thirty years later,” he continues, “and I was struggling to overcome being ditched by my girlfriend who’d I’d lived with for three years. Through tears, and many beers, I found myself watching the original ‘Willy Wonka’ to soothe my soul. It wasn’t a conscious decision”.
The friend whose couch Hardy was crashing on at the time noticed that not only was his temporary flatmate always watching the same kids movie again and again, but that he was always watching a Veruca Salt scene. “Eventually he said ‘if you love Veruca so much, why don’t you see if she’s keen for a catch-up?’ I replied ‘back off mate, she’s only ten’. But he pointed out that the actress who played her would be quite a bit older by now”.
And so Hardy started trying to track down – or stalk, depending on your view point – Julie Dawn Cole, the actress who played Veruca Salt in the originally ‘Willy Wonka’ film. And somehow he found her. And she replied. “One day I received an email from Julie saying, simply, ‘Hello, can I help?’ That was perhaps the single most exciting, exhilarating moment of my entire life. Fiction became fact, fantasy became reality”.
And, in case you are in any doubt of that fact, Hardy and Cole will now take to the stage together for a magical Fringe show this August. “If I say so myself, the 100% true story of what happened next is one of the most tragic, yet triumphantly uplifting tales of hope reaping rewards, ever told”, Hardy says. “It’s about faith, and it’s funny”.