Monday, 7 March 2016

Interview: Louise Gold on Richard Bean’s The Nap & Gypsy

Louise Gold is currently playing Waxy in the world premiere of Richard Bean’s new play The Nap.

Directed by Richard Wilson, the comedy thriller about snooker opens at the Sheffield Crucible on 15th March (previews from 10th March) and plays until 2nd April 2016. The cast also includes Ralf Little and Jack O’Connell.

Louise most recently starred in Gypsy at the Chichester Festival Theatre and Savoy Theatre. As well as playing Mazeppa – one of the three strippers – Louise also understudied Imelda Staunton as Mama Rose, playing the role at three performances in August (2015). 

Louise’s West End credits include: Mrs Sowerberry/Mrs Bedwin in Oliver! (Theatre Royal Drury Lane), Miss Andrew in Mary Poppins (Prince Edward), Baroness in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (London Palladium), Dottie Otley in Noises Off (Piccadilly), Tanya in Mamma Mia! (Prince Edward), Sarah Jane Moore in Assassins (Donmar), Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes (Prince Edward), Fanny Brice in Ziegfeld (London Palladium), Sister Mary Amnesia in Nunsense (Fortune) and Isobel in The Pirates Of Penzance (Theatre Royal Drury Lane).

Just a few of Louise’s other theatre credits include: Bertha in Pippin (Menier Chocolate Factory), God in The Good Soul Of Szechuan (Young Vic), The Water Babies & The Gondoliers (Chichester), Miss Prism in The Importance Of Being Earnest The Musical (Theatre Royal Windsor), Phyllis in Follies (Royal Festival Hall), Lilli/Kate in Kiss Me, Kate & Titania in A Midsummer Night's Dream (Regent’s Park), Dunyasha in The Cherry Orchard (RSC), title role in Calamity Jane & Gussie in Merrily We Roll Along (both Leicester Haymarket) and Mrs Johnston in Blood Brothers (Watermill).

I recently spoke to Louise about what makes The Nap a relevant play, why she’s having a joyous time in rehearsals and how she reacted after being told she would be going on as Mama Rose in Gypsy… 

Richard Bean is such an unpredictable writer! What were your first impressions of The Nap?
Well I was very excited when I heard Richard Wilson was directing a new Richard Bean play in Sheffield which is a great theatre, so before I even read the play I thought, ‘this is going to be interesting if nothing else’. The play is so funny, it’s about snooker. Bizarrely I have been in possibly the only ever musical about snooker!

Oh my goodness! What was it called?
I did a film years ago which nobody has ever heard of – apart from Richard Bean – called Billy the Kid and the Green Baize Vampire which was a musical about snooker.

Louise in rehearsals for The Nap

No way!
[laughs] Yes! When I mentioned this at my audition and said nobody has ever heard of it, Richard Bean said “I’ve got a copy of it at home!” He’s possibly the only person in the world who has seen it!

Snooker is a really interesting topic for a play, what can people expect?
It’s great, there are some wonderfully bizarre characters. It’s set in the slightly shady world of betting on snooker – it’s slightly gangster. I play a transgender Sheffield gangster. This boy Dylan, who’s played by Jack O’Connell, comes from a really rough background and snooker is the thing that has literally saved his life. He finds salvation in this game, and it’s his story. I think in the sporting world this is very relevant at the moment.

Have you been delving into the snooker world during rehearsals? 
Yes, Richard Bean has done a huge amount of research with the gambling commission and finding out about the realities, particularly within the snooker world, of the different betting things that go on. It has been fascinating for all of us! We’ve got a professional snooker player, John Astley, who has been coming in to coach. He’s a wonderful, brilliant lad. I didn’t know very much about snooker, despite having done that film, but there is actually a lot about it on television. Immediately after we finish the run in Sheffield, the World Snooker Championships goes into the Crucible! 

Louise in Gypsy
You’re working alongside a very exciting cast, what has everybody been like to work with?
They’re fantastic! Absolutely brilliant! Richard Wilson is a wonderful director, at the beginning of rehearsals he had us all sitting in a circle which is a wonderful way of getting to know people. For everyone the first day of rehearsals can be a little bit intimidating, especially when you know it’s such an amazing cast. Immediately we were all on the same level in the circle, all chipping in. They’re all lovely. There have been a lot of laughs, it’s a very funny, warm and friendly company. It always comes from the director, and Richard Wilson is just gorgeous. Jack O’Connell, who I think must be the youngest in the company, is gorgeous too and just such a lovely lad.

Has Richard Bean been involved?
Absolutely, he’s been there. He hasn’t changed much, but the odd line has been worked on. He’s always there to talk through and explain things. 

With the run having already been extended, there’s a big buzz surrounding the piece. It must be an exciting production to be a part of?
In the rehearsal room you try not to think about that because it adds unnecessary pressure. We’re just doing a play for Sheffield and are going to do it the best we can. Of course it’s fantastic when you think something is really funny and you’re working with such a great company. In any job you go into you hope it will work and be a success… I just love it. It’s wonderful to be surrounded by people you really are inspired by. 

Well one job you went into recently which wasn’t only a tremendous success, but a theatrical event, was Gypsy. What’s it like to look back at your time in the show?
It’s slightly weird because we were doing it every day so you almost forget about the hype. Of course it was fantastic that people loved it and were begging for tickets, it’s wonderful to be doing work which people receive well because I’ve been in shows that I’ve loved but other people haven’t which is heartbreaking. Jonathan Kent (director) was wonderful and Imelda (Staunton) was such a great leader of the company; the woman is so disciplined and courageous as a performer. It was wonderful! I’ve done so many shows where I’ve gone ‘Why didn’t that work? That should have been great’! It’s a mystery, but when everything does come together it is always wonderful.

Each night you, Anita Louise Combe and Julie Legrand came on and brought the house down when you performed ‘You Gotta Get a Gimmick’. It must have been so much fun to perform that gift of a song?
What was lovely is that we loved each other. We got on so well! Before we started rehearsals for Chichester the three of got in touch and met up. I think we thought, ‘oh my god, we’re three women of a certain age. Doing this together could be hellish!’ It was wonderful, we shared a dressing room together and laughed so much. I recently went up to Manchester to see them both, Julie was in Wit at the Royal Exchange and Anita is playing Grizabella in Cats. It was just fantastic! To get that kind of trust with the people you’re on stage with is so lovely, and as you say it was a gift of a song. 

Louise, Julie Legrand, Anita Louise Combe & Lara Pulver in Gypsy

You also understudied Mama Rose and went on for three shows – what did you do when you got that call to say ‘you’re going on?’
I burst into tears! Oh god… it was what I had wished and dreamed for, but gosh the weight of it..! I loved it. When I took the job initially, to have a go at it was my dream. To get to do three shows with that cast and orchestra was wonderful. Obviously I would love to have done my own production with full rehearsal, but I was thrilled to have a chance to play that role. The best thing was that my son who was fifteen came to see me do it. He said, “Mummy, you know when you sing ‘it’s a phenomenon’? You were a phenomenon!” After he said that I didn’t care what the audience thought [laughs], my son loved it so it was worth it! It was just for him which was so sweet.

People weren’t just coming to see Gypsy, they were coming to see Imelda Staunton in Gypsy. If it was me in the audience and I’d booked to see Imelda Staunton and read her reviews I would have been disappointed to see me. People wanted to see the wonderful performance everybody was talking about. But I did get some lovely messages from people in the audience who said they were disappointed initially, but thought I was fantastic which was very sweet. Imelda went on when she was in pain – she is incredible! She did everything she could, but just couldn’t do those three performances because she had a terrible stomach thing and it was not possible for her to go onstage. She would never just take a night off! Imelda would go on with two broken legs and her head chopped off if it were possible!

The variety in your career is incredible – you’ve gone from a huge West End musical revival to a new regional play. Have you always strived for that kind of variety?
I love my career – I’ve been able to do musicals, plays and work on screen. My next job may be puppeteering. I’ve been so lucky to work with these wonderful people. It’s astounding when I think of some of the people I’ve come across. I love it! It’s just a joy to come into work and listen to these people around me. I’m so blessed!

Interviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

The Nap opens at the Sheffield Crucible on 15th March (previews from 10th March) and runs until 2nd April 2016. Please visit for further information and tickets.

Photo Credit 2: Mark Douet 
Photo Credit 3-4: Johan Persson

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