'Life is lush again': Ben Langley on his difficult year
PUBLISHED: 06:54 13 January 2020 | UPDATED: 13:51 13 January 2020
It's been a rollercoaster year for comic Ben Langley that ended with him performing in a circus ring a stone's throw from an actual rollercoaster.
"The last few years have shown me that you never really know what the future will bring and that if you wait, good things will happen," he says.
Ben, 45, has spent his life on stage and was in Covent Garden for 20 years with his street show (useful experience, he says, for performing at the circus) before marrying wife Sarah, a choreographer, and having their two sons, Elwood and Loxley.
He's performed in 21 pantomimes, is a regular on the UK comedy scene, writes for artists such as Joe Pasquale and Cannon and Ball, has appeared in two series of Mackenzie Crook's Detectorists (and in his Worzel Gummidge this Christmas), was the storyteller in a Cbeebies show and has his own West End show.
And then, of course, there was THAT stint on variety talent show Britain's Got Talent, which catapulted Ben into the public eye - an hilarious misheard lyrics routine which impressed judges including Simon Cowell and David Walliams.
Returning for his fifth Norwich Theatre Royal pantomime for Christmas 2018, he wasn't prepared for what would come next.
However, Ben is happy to quickly draw a line under last year's "difficulties" with Norwich Theatre Royal which began when he announced his disappointment that he would not be returning for 2019's pantomime at the venue on social media.
We meet almost a year to the day since the Theatre confirmed his Twitter announcement and he says it's hard to believe the change in how he feels today.
"What a difference a year makes!" he laughs, just days after finishing a sold-out run of performances at Great Yarmouth's Hippodrome Circus alongside co-host Jack Jay.
"This time last year I was in a pretty dark place. But I was so overwhelmed by the love I had from the people of Norwich and Norfolk.
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"Life is too short to have regrets: I loved my time at the Theatre Royal and I wish everyone there all the best. I am overjoyed to have the opportunity to perform in the county I love for the people who have supported me, it really is the dream."
Ben's first visit to the Hippodrome was when he went to discuss the "inspired" suggestion by the Jays that he join their show - and he instantly fell in love.
"When I first saw the circus it dropped my jaw. It's an incredible building and of course the Jay family's love for it means that it's a business with a real heart," he said.
"I went to see the circus at Easter and in the Summer and my boys loved it, particularly Johnny Mac, who was co-hosting with Jack. They were most disappointed when I told them Johnny wouldn't be there at Christmas!
He laughs: "I pointed out that effectively I was going to BE Johnny and they were like 'oh'!
"The Jays immediately made me feel at home and they have been incredibly supportive and generous with their time and expertise - the circus is a family and everyone pulls together. There's no airs and graces, you just get to work."
Ben was in awe of the acts who he worked with, from Jack ("just incredible") to the international circus artists with their daring acts.
"Every day I watched balancing act The Bionic Brothers and every time I had a lump in my throat because they are just such beautiful performers, it really is humbling," he says, "and no, I haven't tried balancing on anyone's head..."
In addition to sharing a stage with acrobats, aerial artists, jugglers and the Wheel of Death (not simultaneously…) Ben also wrote the first-ever Potters Resort Pantomime which was performed by the in-house theatre company at Christmas. You'd think he was due a rest - but no.
He's about to MC at Potters during the Just 2020 World Indoor Bowls Championships and there are lots of irons in the fire, including a return to the Hippodrome next Christmas. All these lovely local jobs mean, he tells me, that not only is he performing in the place he loves best: he gets to go home every night.
"These are precious years with my family and I want to enjoy them," says Ben, "I was worried about having to work away more, but now life is lush again. It's good, innit?"
Visit www.hippodromecircus.co.uk to find out about upcoming shows.