Episode 344 or Series 6 Episode 58, A Hole In The Heart,
First broadcast on BBC 1 on 21 November 2002
Review by Emma Shane © Summer 2005
As an actress, Louise Gold has rarely played a character with whom she shares her forename. She’s done several puppet characters whose name was a diminutive or variation of her own (but they tended to be named after their puppeteer). As a singer in SBSBS, and possibly a couple of Sondheim galas, David Kernan obviously found it amusing to have her sing the Gypsy Rose Lee character in the song If Momma Were Married (simply because Gypsy Rose Lee’s real forename was Louise). But other than that I haven’t come across any other instances of it, so this programme, in which Ms Gold plays a character named Louise Hannon (addressed as “Lou”) could well be a first.
The episode starts (after the opening titles) with a view of a house, then cuts to an oven shelf, where a pair of hands are removing pastries from the oven. It is kind of ironic that the first we see of Louise is her hands. Her right grips a try with an oven-cloth, while her un-clothed left swiftly removes the pastries onto the tray (would someone really remove hot pastries like that?). She carries this over to a table, where Ian Hannon, played by Simon Kunz is waiting. She serves him, and he asks if she’s having anything, she says no, she’ll wait for Jake. She fiddles with the flowers in a vase, while moaning about Jake being up late. Presently Jake Hannon, played by Sam Green, enters, and she bossily suggests he is burning the candle at both ends. It seems the previous week he managed to miss a hospital appointment, a check-up on his heart. Luckily his mother has got him one with the GP. This is clearly one efficient woman; Even with this first scene, Louise has established her character as a woman who likes to be in charge of things, probably one who shouldn’t really be a stay-at-home housewife.
Cut to the GP’s reception where Carolina Shaw, played by Ela Kay has just arrived for work late, full of apologies. Her co-receptionist is sympathetic, Carolina’s only just returned to work following a bereavement (her aunt has died).
Cut to the house, where Jake is asked by his mother if he has got the hospital letter. She clearly has no time for his reply, and looks for it herself in his room. On picking up a paperback book, to look behind it, a folded up piece of paper falls out of it. Concerned and curious she unfolds it to reveal white powder, and makes the obvious conclusion. She folds the paper up and puts it in her handbag.
Cut to GP’s reception, where Carolina is still wondering how she will ever manage without her Aunty.
Cut to the GP’s consulting room, where Dr Benjamin Kwarme, played by Ariyon Bakare has just finished examining Jake. He says there is nothing wrong with Jake’s heart anymore; the surgery was successful at closing the hole. Of course Jake should still see the hospital at some point, they have better machines and can tell for sure, but as far as he can tell the hole seems to have closed up. Louise tells Jake she will meet him outside; she wants a word with the doctor. There’s a clever bit of two-faced acting going on here. Louise manages to give the surface appearance of a gentle smile, yet the audience knows there is something under the surface. As soon as Jake is out of the room, her manner changes in a flash. I’ve seen very few actors who could successfully change manner that quickly (in fact the only other one that springs immediately to mind is a certain actor who played a nutter of an armed robber in East Enders a few years ago....). She shows the doctor the powder, demands to know what it is and what effects it has. Dr Ben is quite calm in the face of this onslaught, he realises at once she is implying Jake has been taking drugs, and says, “We don’t know that he’s taken any of it.” “We don’t know that he hasn’t,” retorts the lady.
Cut to outside the Surgery, where Louise is telling Jake he could still go to afternoon school. He is clearly fed up with her interfering, and decides to run home instead of going in the car.
Cut to another scene elsewhere in the surgery.
Cut to the house, Ian has just arrived, in response to a message she has left him, he has the first line, and addresses the wife as “Lou...” Dr Ben is also there.
Cut to Jake in his room, he picks up the paperback book seen earlier, and notices the package isn’t in it.
Cut to the Surgery, where Dr Helen Thompson comes in on Dr Marc Eliot, ostensibly to tell him of some plumbing problem at a new surgery that is being built, but really to surprise him with the plaque she has got for it.
Cut to the house, in Jake’s room, Jake is telling Dr Ben “She found it” He clearly isn’t too keen on his rather bossy controlling mother. Meanwhile, on the landing outside, Ian is asking Lou why on earth didn’t she let him know rather than involving the doctor. Lou convincingly protests that they were going to the doctors anyway, when she found it in a book. At which Ian charges into Jake’s room, spotting that paperback book, grabs it, and tells Jake off for taking it without asking. Louise looks on in astonishment, (she does a good job of looking astonished), and Jake flounces out. After a few moments, Dr Ben offers to go after Jake. Leaving the couple to pick up the pieces. Ian confesses the drugs were given to him by a friend at work, to help him through a bad patch, though he had no intention of actually using them.
Cut to a path, Dr Ben catches up with Jake, and gets him to slow down (not for Jake’s sake, but for the doctor’s).
Cut to the house, Lou, with convincing irate conviction, asks Ian how someone can be a workaholic and hate their job? To which Ian tells Lou a few home truths. We finally see, if we hadn’t already guessed, the kind of woman this outwardly harsh control-freak type character is. He says, “You loved your job, and you gave it up”. She replies that she had to, their son was ill. Ian tells her, he would have willingly given up his own job, which he never really liked, but he felt cut-off from home life, Jake needed her, apparently, and so he buried himself in his work to take his mind off home.
Cut to the surgery, where Kate Maguire is wondering whether to give up “David”, I am not quite sure what that is all about, evidently some on-going plot.
Cut to Jake and Dr Ben walking along a canal path. Dr Ben says, and Ariyon Bakare, though convincing, looks like his having fun with these lines, he’s heard of troublesome teenagers, but he’s never heard of one before who would willingly take the blame for something their father had done.
Cut to House; In the last scene Ian told Lou some home truths, now it’s her turn to react. This is skilfully played. Although it’s an emotional situation the character is still a woman who likes to be in charge of a situation, and the actress doesn’t let us forget that. Lou admits to Ian that while pregnant, without knowing it, she had a drunken one-night stand. She beseeches him with both her voice and eyes to believe her that Jake is his.
Cut to the Surgery, one of the ongoing plot interludes.
Cut to Jake and Dr Ben, still walking. Jake mentions his girlfriend, and how he can’t bring himself to tell his parents about her, because he’s afraid his mother will go on at him.
Cut to House. Ian tells Lou that he knew all along about her being unfaithful. It made him feel he was second best; he admired her for staying with him and their son.
Cut to Jake and Dr Ben sitting on a bench. Dr Ben says that mothers always worry, it’s part of their job-description, and offers Jake some sound advice that perhaps his mother isn’t quite as over the top as he thinks she is. He adds that his own mother annoyed him when he was a teenager.
Cut to the House, the expression on Lou’s face is one of complete upset. There are no actual tears, and one doesn’t need them, to convey the situation, her face says enough, a tough character who has finally broken down. She tells Ian how she always felt guilty over her one-night-stand, felt that she was being punished for it by Jake’s medical condition. She says she can’t ask him to forgive her. Ian replies “I forgave you long ago” and gives her a comforting hug.
Cut to the surgery, part of ongoing plot. I think this may have been the scene involving someone having a conversation with a Vicar, Father Tom, played by Tom O’Connor, another guest actor in this episode playing a character with whom they share their forename.
Cut to another bit of the surgery, Kate and Helen eating chocolates and discussing Kate’s problems.
Cut to Surgery Reception. Carolina admits to one of the doctor’s, her secret. Her daughter Vicki, that’s why she was late this morning, she had to take her to school, now her Aunt isn’t there to do it.
Cut to the House, Jake and Dr Ben return. Lou, humbled, actually apologies to Jake, and says she will try to give him more room. Dr Ben leaves them to it. Ian suggests that as it’s too late in the day for him to go back to work, why don’t they go out for a meal in the evening. At which Jake, perhaps taking Dr Ben’s advice, asks, if there’s a spare chair could he bring someone. As if in reply, Lou has a slight smile on her face, and this time its not a put-on smile, it’s one where she looks like she means it. This time her eyes are smiling too, concluding the main storyline for the episode happily.
Cut to the surgery reception. Carolina explains how she didn’t want people to comment on her having a baby at 15, but she wants to improve her life, for herself and her daughter, she knows she only got this job by the skin of her teeth, and how can she possibly hang on to it now? Her listener is optimistic it can be worked out.
What really stands out, is that the programme is surprisingly well written. The various plots and subplots provide contrasts with each other at all the right moments, to educate and interest the audience. The characters and their problems come across, for the main part, as pretty believable. This is not only due to the writing though, for a script is only as good as the actor who delivers it. Of the regular cast members, two stand out as giving very believable performances, they are Ela Kay, and most especially Ariyon Bakare, who had what must surely be quite an unbelievable role to play, and yet he managed to be entirely convincing. The three major guest stars all performed well. Sam Green made an excellent job of turning Jake into a believable character; A teenager who just wants to be treated normally and as a maturing adult. His was one of the most convincing performances in the episode. Simon Kunz did a pretty good job as Ian Hannon, especially in the scene where he had to tell his wife some home truths about who should have given up their job and why he is a workaholic. But their performances would not have worked so wonderfully well, were it not for Louise Gold in the role of Louise Hannon. She’s good at playing bossy anyway, and she also has a knack for playing women who are only hard and harsh on the surface, you can easily pick up on the fact there is more to this character than that tough exterior, underneath is a woman who really does care, so that when she finally breaks down and admits she was wrong, it really is convincing. There are very few actresses who could have played the role as well as she did it (I can only think of two off the top of my head, namely Louise Plowright and Jay Meikle, who might have been able to do it anywhere near as well). Louise Gold not only has a flair for doing these complicated characters (some of her stage roles have had similar combinations of harsh exterior and soft interior), she also acts well on camera. Perhaps it is partly her experiences as a puppeteer, or just her natural manner, but she seems to have an instinct for communicating with her eyes, making sure the expressions on her face are in keeping with whatever thoughts are supposed to be going through her character’s head a that time. There aren’t too many actors who remember to do that all the time either. I was pleasantly surprised by how good some of the performances actually were. I was even more surprised by the standard of the writing, the way the storylines actually made some very telling comments about all sorts of issues, including: making assumptions about teenagers, the need to try and treat even children with chronic conditions normally as much as possible, why men become workaholics, and above all stay-at-home-housewives, who are totally unsuited to that life. Bridget Colgan and Mark Hiser have done a good job with the script, and the cast, especially Ariyon Bakare, Simon Kunz, Sam Green and Louise Gold do it justice.