Call the Midwife’s Ben Caplan on theatre role

He has been noticeable by his absence from one of the BBC’s big Sunday night hits. But while PC Peter Noakes is temporarily AWOL from Call The Midwife, his real-life alter ego Ben Caplan is enjoying cheese-and-pineapple and Demis Roussos nightly in Abigail’s Party which is currently touring UK theatres

Ben Caplan is the first to admit his career is in a very good place: he’s part of the regular cast of one of British TV’s most popular shows and is also taking to the stage in a theatre production of a play which became iconic thanks to a small-screen performance 40 years ago.

Starring opposite Sherlock’s Amanda Abbington in a touring version of Mike Leigh’s classic Abigail’s Party, things are going well for Ben.

“My focus is really to go from filming back to theatre and then move from one to the other. I have been doing a lot of filming recently. I wanted to have some time to step back on stage and Abigail’s Party was too much of a good opportunity to turn down,” he said.

That great opportunity also attracted him to Call The Midwife. Back when it began, Ben hoped it had the right ingredients for success.

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“We had fantastic actors, a great script, writers and crew, but you just don’t know whether it will make its mark. The books had been very successful and we hoped the people who loved them would watch but it picked up a big following beyond that and people really invested in the characters,” he said.

“We love and care about it and want to make it as good as it can possibly be. We intend to keep on doing that.”

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He particularly enjoyed working with Miranda Hart who played his on-screen wife Chummy which is also an on-screen bond loved by the viewers.

“We have a fun time working together. The great thing about her is that from the moment we met, we had a great unspoken chemistry that we brought to the characters and that really comes through. I think there is a lot of respect and love between us both as characters and people.”

It still remains hugely popular with 9.2 million watching the Christmas Day episode and even midwives themselves love it with Ben getting appreciative comments from them when he was becoming a dad. He laughed: “They absolutely adore the show and are big fans.” And with three more series to come, he said: “It is very exciting to see what is in store.”

Ben is no stranger to the small-screen though with roles in the likes of BBC daytime hit The Coroner, ITV’s dark drama Whitechapel, and classic series like A Touch of Frost and Inspector Morse.

He was also part of the iconic HBO drama Band of Brothers which featured an all-star cast and was executive-produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. It told the story of Easy Company through key points in the Second World War and became a huge hit worldwide with Ben playing Corporal Walter ‘Smoky’ Gordon opposite the likes of Damian Lewis and Donnie Wahlberg.

“I often say it is the best history lesson I could be a part of. That job was physically, mentally and emotionally draining. We had to go to camp for four weeks to train and then come back to the set. It was such a wonderful job and we all stayed really good friends,” he said.

“We had a reunion in Bastogne in Belgium just before Christmas where The Battle of Bastogne took place. I was lucky enough to be there with Smoky’s son who I had met over the years. We were in his father’s foxhole where he was badly injured. It was an extraordinary place to be.”

Fast-forward to today and he is playing the long-suffering Laurence, wife of the overbearing Beverly in Abigail’s Party which is touring the UK visiting the likes of Norwich Theatre Royal from Monday to Saturday, Cambridge Arts Theatre, Oxford Playhouse Theatre and Richmond Theatre in the weeks ahead.

It has a strong TV history being broadcast within the BBC’s Play For Today strand with a repeat of it attracting a massive 16 million viewers.

“I didn’t know it beforehand and I had never actually seen it. In some respects that is good as I didn’t have any iconic voices in my head and I could bring some new energy and life to the character,” said Ben.

Cracks soon start opening up between Beverly and Laurence as the play develops and it seems like the pair, though both misunderstood, are in a bit of a sham marriage. Ben explained: “The play is very much about relationships and keeping up with how you are supposed to behave when the neighbours come round. There are lots of funny things that people will recognise in the play as well as the cracks in the relationship.”

He is really enjoying working with Amanda whose interpretation of Beverly brings a fresh look to the character immortalised by Alison Steadman but admits there are no dinner parties after the curtain comes down.

“But we are now socialising quite a bit over a few bottles of wine and enjoying each other’s company,” he laughed, It all seems so much more civilised and less full of angst and titters than one of Beverly’s soirees.

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