Francis Wright's Weblog

GROTBAGS – a tribute to Carol Lee Scott (1942–2017)

1-CAROL LEE SCOTT

Carol Lee Scott, minus the green that made her into ‘Grotbags’

Made by Central Television in Nottingham, GROTBAGS ran for three popular series between 1991 and 1993. It was a spinoff from Rod Hull & Emu’s shows, which had over several years featured a large and bad-tempered green witch. The witch was none other than Grotbags, played by a large and good-humoured actress and singer, Carol Lee Scott.

Carol submitted the new format for her own show to Lewis Rudd, who was the Head of Children’s Programmes for Central TV, and GROTBAGS was  born.

Gone were the Crocodile and the Robot (fans of Rod Hull’s show will know what that means) replaced instead by a collection of puppet characters, all built by Richard Coombs. He and Francis Wright played Doris the Dodo and Colin the Bat respectively, with the spiky potplant Norman Nettle being shared by Richard Coombs and Philip Eason.

GROTBAGS & FRIENDS (1991-1993)

The GROTBAGS family, L-R: Doris the Dodo, Norman Nettle, Grotbags and Colin the Bat. Photo (c) Central TV

Various other characters came and went with varying degrees of success: P.D., a slightly frumpish spinster (superbly portrayed by Francesca Longrigg,) was a female neighbour and confidante for Carol to play off. She was human, not a puppet, and was elbowed unceremoniously at the end of Series One. Other casualties were the ‘real’ children, the ‘brats’ for which Grotbags was famous.

Culled from Central TV’s Children’s Television Workshop, they were vital to the plot of each episode to begin with, but turned out to be unnecessary, and occasionally beset with unforeseen problems, including an infestation of nits. To be frank, life was easier without them. The stories certainly were.

GROTBAGS WITH LUMPY & GRUMBLE & COLIN

What are they looking at ? Grumble, with Lumpy peering out of him,  Colin the Bat and Grotbags are intrigued by something …

Down in the basement lived Grumble Guts, the witch’s cauldron – a lugubrious Brummie, played by Richard Coombs – and bobbing up and down in his slimy innards was a toothy silver blob, supposedly made up of leftover spells. This creation was named Lumpy, who trilled and simpered like Noel Coward at his finest. I sat in comfort voicing Lumpy, as Richard sweated inside the cauldron, coping dextrously with the mechanics of both characters.

GROTBAGS WITH LUMPY & GRUMBLE and LOOFAH

Grotbags reminds Colin who is boss.

Writer Bob Hescott created some hilarious dialogue for all of us, his scripts for every programme being small-scale works of genius. They relied entirely on his inventiveness with words as there was no budget for anything else – not even music – apart from the one or two songs that were shoehorned into the series to let Carol enjoy putting a number across, something she did extremely well thanks to her years as a cabaret singer.

Carol’s late husband and manager, Bill Ling, was something of a Svengali, always there, always watching everything she did, praising or criticising whenever he felt it was required. During rehearsals, which were used mainly for line-learning, he would pace the studio, jangling his keys in his pocket, listening. On occasion, Carol would stop dead in mid-flow and declare ‘Grotty wouldn’t say that!’ … From the shadows, Bill would echo ‘No, Grotty wouldn’t say that …’ The offending line would be altered without further discussion to something that better suited Carol. Bill adored her, and worshipped the ground she walked on.

The three series of GROTBAGS were directed by the late Colin Clews, a light-entertainment director with a fabulously dry sense of humour. Having known Carol for years, he had no illusions about her or anything in television. He also knew that in reality she had very little self-confidence, an unfortunate relic of her days with Rod Hull and Emu. By managing to keep her happy and free of stress he got some lovely work out of her, helped considerably by a supportive crew, who all seemed to enjoy the shows very much.

A lot of laughs were had during the three years of GROTBAGS, and I think the affection everyone had for the show’s leading lady comes across loud and clear.

GROTBAGS - RC AND FW

Francis Wright and Richard Coombs with Doris the Dodo, Norman Nettle, and Colin the Bat (GROTBAGS, 1991-1993, Central TV.)

GROTBAGS WITH FW as COLIN

Show us your leg! Carol posing saucily between takes.  Francis Wright is at floor level with Colin the Bat.

Carol Lee Scott, born 10th December, 1942, died 4th July 2017

 

Copyright (c) Francis Wright, 2017

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Written by Francis Wright

July 11, 2017 at 7:24 pm

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