Gina’s Laughing Gear
Louise Gold featured as HM The Queen and Simon Cowell’s Mother, in Series 1, Episode 2 ‘Spoof’; recorded 20 November 2006, first broadcast at 17:00 to 17:30 on BBC 1, on Friday 19 January 2007
Gina Yashere – as The Host
Howard Gossington – as Ron Weasley, and, Prince William
Louise Gold – as The Queen, and Simon Cowell’s Mother
Additional Cast – Claire Bailey, Dylan Bailey, Eleanor Mcready, Bernard Mensah, Cordell Roper, and. Eros Vlahos
Ray Donn – as Simon Cowell’s Father
Writers – The writers for this episode was the team behind ‘Dead Ringers’ (Carl Carter, Lucy Clarke, Tony Cooke, Julian Dutton, Nev Fountain, Alan Gilbey, Jack Jameson, Tom Jamieson, George Poles, John Sayle, Ben Ward, and, Arnold Widdowson)
Director – James Garbett
Producer – Caroline Norris (also producer of ‘Dead Ringers’)
The TV listings describe the cast for this episode as “brightest new impressionists” It should perhaps be noted that some of them aren’t so “new” at least one of them has actually been around on television as an impressionist for over twenty years!
James Hurn acted on an episode of Dead Ringers in 2006
Howard Gossington has appeared in News Revue at The Canal Cafe
According to her official site Francine Lewis has appeared in many TV shows, and she was described by one tabloid newspaper as “The best female impressionist in the country”
Zoe Gardner’s performance in a show called ‘Congress Of Oddities’ seems to be much noted on the web
Chris Pavlo actually has an entry in the BBC Comedy Guide
Caroline Norris had previously produced The Wonderful World Of Puppets, on which performer Louise Gold had appeared in her puppeteer’s guise.
Meanwhile Ray Donn has extensive film and television credits, mostly as a Supporting Artiste (in which capacity he has worked on the same film sets as several major British animatronics people, particularly on Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy). He also has a long history of charity work, particularly for the Entertainment Artistes Benevolent Fund, in which the Royal Variety Performance is always given in aid of. (One might note that Louise Gold has performed on at least two RVP’s, in 1977 and 1982).
The whole series has a running gag about ‘Gina’ hacking a CBBC transmission in a desperate attempt to become a CBBC presenter. Each individual episode was self contained, with its own cast.
Louise Gold subsequently performed on Transmission: Impossible With Ed And Oucho some episodes of which was first screened don the CBBC channel.
Interestingly, Gina Yashere and Louise Gold are both left-handed.
One of the great things about Louise Gold is her tendency to take an audience by surprise. One never knows what job she will pop up in next. I only caught this programme by chance, so I am not entirely certain I caught all of Louise’s appearance on it. This particular episode of the children’s programme Gina’s Laughing Gear was about spoofs, and basically consists of spoof of quite a variety of films and programmes, some children’s ones such as Charlie And The Chocolate Factory (done as Charlie And The Cheese Factory), and Harry Potter, not to mention as dash of Mary Poppins. While others are more grown up, for example the news, Little Britain, and Big Brother, amongst others. Indeed for a children’s programmes (even one at five o’clock) some of it I thought a little shocking.
Louise Gold appeared in at least three sketches (Well I just about spotted her in three – but I only caught it by chance and missed the beginning). Towards the end Louise popped up in a sketch spoofing Simon Cowell (a judge on Pop Idol and X Factor etc). In it she played his mother. She has baked a cake and brought it into the room (where some kind of party is going on), the guy tells her she’ll never win the contest by baking cakes. For some inexplicable reason he wants his mother to sing, he says to her something along the lines of “You do want to sing --- dressed in nothing but a thong.” To which she replies, very deadpan “No I do not want to sing – dressed in a thong”. Whereupon the guy pushes her face into the cake. The things actresses’s have to do to earn their living! The sketch was pretty dreadful (but that’s probably more a reflection on the kinds of programmes it was parodying than the sketch itself), although it has to be said Louise acted it well, and made as much as she could of her lines, bringing to them anything she could from her considerable comedy experience. She did this part with an accent similar to the one she used when appearing in Doctors, and, The Bill. Her hairstyle was quite straight and sweptback, I could not tell if it was her own hair cleverly styled or a wig, though the colour (“that peculiar shade of red” - to quote David Garnett’s Lady Into Fox) would suggest it might be her own. Even with the strange hairstyle, and glasses, there was still something in her facial expressions, and her voice to make one realise it was her (well if you know her work). And then of course there is her almost unique acting style. (“Almost unique” because it is very similar to a certain Unity Theatre actress). She has such a special stage presence that she practically acted the rest of the cast (including the actor playing Simon Cowell) off the screen.
The highlight of the entire episode was a spoof on Big Brother, done as ‘Royal Big Brother’. The actors played various members of the Royal Family, and for this they were of course dressed up to resemble the relevant royals, such as Prince William (played by Howard Gossington), Prince Charles, and possibly Prince Philip (only catching part of it I’m not quite sure), and of course The Queen. It was here that the queen of Spitting Image puppeteers came into her own; and presumably it’s why they hired her. Louise Gold may very well be one of the first impressionists ever to have done a voice for ‘Queen Elizabeth II’ on television, but hitherto seems to have always done it (and to this day still does) with her clever left arm up the back of a puppet. This time, by way of a change, she is doing it as an actress. However, Louise’s portrayal of The Queen as an actress, is actually strikingly similar to Spitting Image’s wonderful take on The Queen, and therefore Louise’s own characterisation as a puppeteer (and of course the voice it exactly the same), it’s a wonder piece of back-translation on Louise’s part, putting her performance from her left hand back into the rest of her body. But it is more than just a parody. For Louise has done as an actress just what she always does best with her puppets, she has put a bit of herself into it. The way she moves, the way she looks at the camera, a sly glance her or there, and her facial expressions (especially with her mouth), and her overall body language, have a distinctive element of Louise herself in them; making one know, just know, from watching her, that it’s that magnificent British actress-puppeteer Louise Gold. Even though she was wearing a grey wig, and glasses, one still knew it was her.
The Big Brother spoof was done as at least two sketches (possibly more – I’m not totally certain, having caught this a little late). The final scene of this particular spoof has The Queen, Prince Charles, and one other prince standing around. A Voice Over tells them not to start any bird impressions, which immediately prompts one of the princes, possibly Charles, to do so. Then the Voice Over tells them it’s time to end Royal Big Brother. When one of the princes remarks “I thought this had another two weeks to run”, The Queen replies “I had it end early. There are advantages to being The Queen, you know”. Oh how delightfully Louise delivered that line; in exactly the same wonderful way she would have done on Spitting Image, some twenty years ago. The Voice Over then announces the winners. Charles is in third place (and is supposed to go and be executed), and the winner is The Queen. At this she gives a wonderful squeal of joy that is both Louise’s Spitting Image portrayal of The Queen; mixed in with a dash of the way Louise’s own (well according to her cabaret act) reaction to Sondheim’s note in MWRA. In fact that sketch really did bear a marked similarity to Spitting Image. Had Big Brother been around back then surely it is exactly the kind of thing they would have done. Just compare this to the early Royal Family sketches from the first series of Spitting Image – it would fit.
Overall I wasn’t too keen on this programme. I thought some sketches (particularly the Harry Potter, and Charlie And The Chocolate Factory parodies) quite painful, painfully unfunny. However, we all have our taste in humour; and I’ve not doubt it’s target audience probably enjoyed it. Although there is clearly a lot of acting talent in it. The actors actually did a fine job; with the notable exception of Royal Big Brother, I wasn’t too enamoured of the writing, but then comedy is hard to write; and new comedy can take some getting used to. However (oh I would say this, wouldn’t I) this episode it is worth watching for the acting, in particular Louise Gold’s performance. As an actress, one of Louise Gold’s sterling qualities is her upbeat nature and ability to make the best of any role she is performing. She is a true professional trouper. It was something that certainly came into play with that talent entry sketch. However, her tour de force is in the Royal Big Brother sketches. And it is good to see this legendary British puppeteer given an opportunity to demonstrate on television that she is as splendid a comedy actress as she is a puppeteer.
Links about Gina’s Laughing Gear
BBC Programme Guide page for the episode: http://open.bbc.co.uk/catalogue/infax/programme/LCQE879W
TVGuide.co.uk’s page for the episode: http://www.tvguide.co.uk/tvlistings/details.asp?id=6604467
BBC Page for the programme (as a whole): http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbbc/specials/comedy.shtml
Digiguide’s page for the episode: http://library.digiguide.com/lib/episode/Spoof!-575237
Wikipedia entry for the programme: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gina's_Laughing_Gear
TV.igoe’s page for the programme: http://tv.igoe.me.uk/info/3347012-Gina's_Laughing_Gear.html/
Mighty Programme’s page for the episode: http://www.mightyv.com/program_info/261492/36052
Gina Yashere’s Official Site: http://www.ginayashere.co.uk/
Mindthegap.tv’s page for the episode: http://www.mindthezap.tv/programs/935727.html
Francine Lewis’s official website: http://www.francinelewis.com/
Francine Lewis’s entry on her agent, Mirth Control,’s website: http://www.mirthcontrol.org.uk/artist-francine-lewis.htm
Howard Gossington’s entry on his agent’s website: http://www.burnettgrangerassociates.co.uk/actors/howard-gossington/
Zoe Gardner’s entry on her agent’s website: http://www.noelgay.com/html/artist_voiceover.php?id=32
Chris Pavlo’s entry in the BBC Comedy Guide: http://www.bbc.co.uk/comedy/guide/talent/p/pavlo_chris.shtml
Gina Yashere’s entry in the BBC Comedy Guide: http://www.bbc.co.uk/comedy/guide/talent/y/yashere_gina.shtml
Ray Donn’s Movie And TV Clips: http://www.btinternet.com/~eabf/movieclips.htm
Ray Donn’s own Website (useful for its information about the work of Supporting Artistes): http://www.donn.co.uk/
Agency Licensing Campaign (article in The Stage): http://www.thestage.co.uk/news/newsstory.php/31022/theatre-stars-back-campaign-for-talent-agency, and Online Petition (which anyone who supports it can sign): http://www.gopetition.com/petition/41085.html , seeing as Ray Donn is among the performers backing this worthy campaign.