ALEX KASRIEL meets Louise Gold: singer, actress and muppet show puppeteer.

If you have seen Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in the West End, you would have seen Louise Gold playing the evil Baroness who absolutely detests children.

"It was jolly good fun," said Louise, who was in the show until the beginning of September.

"Christopher Biggins who plays her on-stage husband, the Baron is an absolute darling. We just laughed and laughed for a year and a half. I hope the audience loved it too."

You can tell by the use of the word darling' and general effervescence, Louise has showbusiness running through her veins. She started as a teenager at The Arts Educational drama school before embarking on the degree course there.

You may have also seen her in Mamma Mia, the musical based around the music of Abba.

But the powerful singer, full of personality and dynamism, was not always in full view of the audience in her career as a performer. She started out her professional life behind the scenes as a puppeteer for Jim Henson's Muppet Show when it was recorded at Elstree Studios in Borehamwood.

"I had no training in puppetry," she said. "My agent sent me to an audition with two other actresses. The sets were built for the live actors so they needed someone tall. It was as simple as that.

"At that time there weren't so many people who knew how to operate puppets, so they were happy to get someone who had co-ordination.

"At the time I went for the audition it had just started being shown here. I didn't know the scale of what I was auditioning for. If I had, I probably would have been very nervous.

"Then I met Jim Henson who acted with me as Kermit."

Louise, who is known in the business for her versatility, played many of the puppets in the chorus scenes, including assorted vegetables. She also played Annie Sue Pig, who was very young and talented' and hated by Miss Piggy.

Louise had to don a variety of different accents for her parts. She tried out many English regional voices, but Henson never thought they quite fitted and always settled on American styles. If she was blas at first, she certainly came to appreciate the enormity of her job.

"The Muppet Show was incredible. It was so expensive for children's light entertainment. It was huge. Sets had to be built especially."

Of course, being part of the Muppet Show meant Louise got to meet some of the biggest stars in the UK.

"The one I was most looking forward to meeting was Danny Kaye. I just adored Danny Kaye. I thought doing the show with him was the greatest thing ever. He wasn't actually very nice, but it didn't matter. At that time he was quite elderly and a bit grumpy. He was still one of my heroes. The other one was Bob Hope."

The Muppets led to Spitting Image where Louise played the Queen, Nancy Regan and Janet Street Porter.

"That was an amazing thing to be part of, but it was very hard physically," she said. "The costumes were so bloody heavy."

Louise lives in East Sheen with her husband Jack Vaughan, who is also an actor. They have a son, Louis, who is five.

"We met doing improvisation shows together in the Intergalactic Centre in Elephant and Castle," she said. "He misses the great years of The Muppets and Spitting Image. We used to go to New York and I'd work in Sesame Street. That was a brilliant show: such simple puppets; simple and classic."

Now Louise likes to devote more time to cabaret where she is allowed to express herself more by choosing her own songs.

She still brings puppets with her to the shows, as she will at her Lauderdale House performance on Sunday at 4.30pm.

At the time of writing she had not yet decided which songs will be included. In fact she was about to meet up with pianist Jason Carr to make a programme.

"It's a mix of stuff. Songs I suppose that I always wanted to sing."

  • Tickets to the show at the Waterlow Park, Highgate Hill, Highgate, are £13 (£10 concessions). To book, call the box office on 020 8348 8716.