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‘Where dreams went to die’: Wonka actor reveals chaos behind Glasgow Willy’s Chocolate Experience

Now the teen actor playing Willy Wonka has spoken out and said the event is “where dreams go to die”

Barney Davis
Saturday 02 March 2024 09:41 GMT
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Willy Wonka actor visits backstage at Glasgow's chocolate factory

An actor who payed one of the Willy Wonka characters at a failed Charlie and the Chocolate Factory event in Glasgow has opened up about dealing with police, crying children and rioting parents, describing the experience as “where dreams go to die”.

Lured in by the promise of £500, Michael Archibald, 18, turned up to his first ever acting gig expecting a professional role in a play. Instead he became part of the Willy Wonka experience which quicky became notorious after pictures of sparse props in an old warehouse were shared online.

He described to The Independent the open-plan changing rooms, paltry offerings of sweets and meagre decorations, including an AI-generated poster of a gingerbread house which barely covered a third of the venue’s wall.

One parent complained of arriving to find a “disorganised mini-maze of randomly placed oversized props, a lacklustre candy station that dispersed one jelly bean per child, and a terrifying chrome-masked character that scared many of the kids to tears”.

But days after going viral Mr Archibald and other staff, some whom spent three days setting up the so-called “chocolate factory”, say they are still waiting for their first payment from organisers.

The hat Michael was expected to wear as Wonka (Michael Archibald)

He told The Independent: “Everything was described as a world of wonders and imagination, an immersive experience.

“But once I walked in to see that everything had still been getting set up, I felt like things were going to take a turn for the worst from then on.

“There was a lot of dancing about with our contracts and mentions of pay felt flimsy.

‘This is where dreams went to die’ (Michael Archibald)

“I didn’t have time to memorise the scripts for context, as the actors and I had only been given our scripts at 6pm on Friday.”

Did you attend the event? If so email barney.davis.ind@independent.co.uk

He added: “By Saturday I was in absolute tatters.

A woman playing an Oompa Loompa is said to have been upset by online trolls (Supplied)

Arriving at 10am, he found queues of frustrated families waiting 40 minutes over their allotted time slots.

He said: “We were essentially told to scrap our scripts which wasn’t a complete loss as it all had been AI-generated.

“But it was an incredibly huge waste of time.

“I scrapped my role as a Wonka after doing a full run-through in the morning and decided to go around asking some of the parents questions on what was going on, where they had come from; places like Inverness and Dundee?

“My overriding feeling to it all was this is where dreams went to die.”

Dreams v Reality: Chocolate nightmares in Glasgow (Stuart Sinclair/Facebook)

By lunchtime angry parents trying to get in called the police, who arrived and quizzed the teenager.

He added: “I gave as much info to them as I could. The police took note of what I was saying and said it was good information.

“The man I spoke to took down all of the things I was talking about and said to see whether we’d get paid or not. We clearly haven’t!”

He added: “It was almost comical how everyone started rioting, throwing things about and really kicking up a fuss.”

‘Who knows they might pay me my £500 but I’m not holding my breath’ Another Wonka actor spoke to The Independent this morning (Supplied/Warner Brothers)

Willy’s Chocolate Experience organiser Billy Coull apologised for his “vision of the artistic rendition of a well-known book that didn’t come to fruition” and offered 850 people their money back before closing the Glasgow experience on Saturday.

Mr Archibald hit back: “It’s really interesting to see how they’ve utilised AI so much for script writing and their website and feels like an insult to artists and creative alike, especially considering their budget. It wouldn’t have been that hard to hire some real artists.”

On his future as an actor: “What’s next? Who knows! Hopefully not another Wonkagate though. I hope it doesn’t put other actors off of this for the future, instead it should show that regardless of how terrible the event was, we had some really incredible people trying their best to bring smiles onto the young people’s faces.

“I’d adore to be an actor however I’m not sure how that would end up considering this was supposed to be my first gig. But I’m not worried regardless, since things normally work out well when you’ve got your heart in it.”

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