The Voice of Mrs Nap, Bonnie Langford
Bonnie Langford enrols for some school-based fun as tuneful teacher Mrs Nap and describes how she was inspired by Dame Angela Lansbury
You are playing tuneful teacher Mrs Nap in the Brilliant World of Tom Gates - can you tell us a little bit more about her?
“Mrs Nap is a fabulously eccentric music teacher, who just loves to sing, and she loves to teach. She adores music, she thinks it colours the world and life, and gives children a tremendous opportunity to be creative and enjoy the world. She has bags of enthusiasm and she doesn’t get flustered with Tom’s mischief (well, maybe just a little bit). But she does understand that he has an energy and zest for life, and I think she admires those attributes in him. She might also have a little crush on Mr Fullerman, Tom’s teacher. See if you can spot it!”
Did you use any of your teachers from stage school as the inspiration for Mrs Nap or did inspiration come from elsewhere?
“My inspiration for Mrs Nap came from a few people. When I was at stage school, I had quite a bombastic singing teacher. I thought he was brilliant, but some people found him very scary. He would shout at us, and then stand up and bang on the top of the piano: ‘You have to sing louder and have fun!’ And actually, we did. He gave us courage. But I also used inspiration for Mrs Nap from my daughter’s music teachers. There was one at her junior school (which was called Oakfield School, in fact, the same as Tom Gates), and she was such a charming gentle lady, but she always had a twinkle in her eye. And then another teacher that my daughter had as well, was in America - the teacher would sing ‘Good morning, Orchard School!’ and they’d all have to sing back “Good morning, Dr Freeman!” And I just thought it was the most hilarious thing. My daughter loved those classes, so it just shows that no matter how eccentric and bonkers you are, kids engage, and that’s what’s important!”
What attracted you to this project - had you come across the Brilliant World of Tom Gates before with your daughter?
“My daughter read the books and absolutely loved them, and so did I. The single line drawings are so clever and clear. My daughter is very good at that technique and the books definitely inspired her to continue with this style. Also, Tom is naughty. He’s always pushing the boundaries and looking for adventure. Things don’t always go quite to plan for him, as in normal life, but he always has a positive outlook and adaptability. He doesn’t stress, he just says, ‘never mind, I can cope. I’ll just do something different!’ And I think that’s so important to teach young people that life doesn’t always turn out the way we planned, but whatever happens, we can cope. It might even be better. I think it’s absolutely vital to teach kids coping mechanisms, to have a lot of fun, and to look on the bright side as much as possible.”
You started your amazing career in children’s TV. Is it nice to return to your children’s TV roots?
“Children’s television is really important, because you need it to connect, to entertain and to educate. It’s lovely to be back on children’s television, because I miss the excitement and the enthusiasm and creativity of young people. The world has moved on so much since I started in TV, and we can sometimes get overwhelmed with the technology and miss the simplicity of everyday things. It can sometimes take away the spontaneity, and the fun that we all need. So, to be back involved with children’s TV is just fantastic – and I love this series, I think it’s just perfect!”
Teachers play a huge role in inspiring children. Did you have a memorable teacher who inspired you?
“I had many memorable teachers who inspired me. I think my favourites were the ones who had a sense of humour and enthusiasm, had a twinkle in their eyes, but also who you respected. You wanted to please them, you could tell that they understood you, and also, you connected with them. Often the best teachers can be those that aren’t in the classroom, those people who are around us in our everyday life or those who are pioneers of today. I used to work in the theatre as a kid, a lot, and so I was always amongst adults, and it gave me the chance to watch and learn. I worked with Dame Angela Lansbury when I was eight years old. She was such an important role model to me and she has remained a total inspiration to me both on and off stage. We’re always learning, and we’re always teaching. I think it’s important that we lead by example; that we share our experience of how to grow and live our life as best we can.”
The Brilliant World of Tom Gates is all about creativity. Are you good at art?
“I’m not very good at art myself, but the one thing I absolutely adored as a kid was colouring ….and I actually have the excuse to do it now, because it’s called mindful colouring, isn’t it? And when I was a kid I used to do Altair designs and doodle art posters. And they’re very similar to Liz’s illustrations, where you can actually put the colours in yourself, and I would do those for hours, and hours, and hours. Little did I know that later on they’d call it therapy... But I think what’s so important is that we give young people from a very early age the opportunity to create, the opportunity to see whatever is in their mind creatively, and to use it. There’s nothing wrong, there’s no such thing as wrong. It’s just your own expression, and that helps you to tap into all the other things that life may bring you, and to be able to come back to a place of quiet and calm, and creativity, and be able to deal with the madness that life throws at you.”
You were a huge success on the Masked Dancer. What has the reaction been since your appearance and do you think it has brought you to the attention of a younger audience?
“The Masked Dancer was absolutely nuts! Literally, because I was Squirrel, and I had ‘nuts’ written on my t-shirt! It was such a fun thing to be part of because basically, all it is, is ‘guess who’, just trying to work out from those crazy clues. I mean, at one point I had to read out all those different clues, and I turned to the producers and said ‘What’s that got to do with me?’ And they said ‘Well you were in this show, and that’s what it’s connected with.’ So, if I can’t work out the stuff that I’ve done in my life, how on earth can anybody else? But I think it’s just a celebration of music, dance, guessing, fun, all the madness that goes with that. Somebody came up to me in the street the other day and said, ‘Squirrel! You were Squirrel!’, which I didn’t expect, really. I found it really hard keeping it a secret and, when it was revealed, I was actually quite nervous that people would be disappointed. That they’d go ‘oh… oh it’s you…’. But to think that I was being compared to people like Lady Leshurr, Nicole Scherzinger, Kimberley Wyatt, and all the Little Mix type popstars was hilarious. It was great fun, and I enjoyed it immensely. I didn’t really want it to end, but it was lovely to finally be able to share the secret with everybody!”
Author: Tom Gates HQ
Date: April 2022