His extensive and much-lauded theatre work has involved roles in Wolf Hall, The Lehman Trilogy, The Norman Conquests and Betrayal, and he has recently appeared on television in The Crown and The Trial of Christine Keeler.
We were delighted to have the opportunity to catch up with Ben for the latest issue of our supporter magazine, Tails.
Ever since I can remember, animals have been in my life. Growing up in rural Derbyshire, our first family cat was a black-and-white moggy called Wilhelmina, or Willum for short. We also had two farm cats, Beans (a ginger named by my red-haired little brother) and Woodstock, and a fantastic rough collie by the name of Sabre, followed by his son, Spike.
Ellie is our adorable rescue dog from Greece and Barry our wonderful French bulldog. Our youngest son was keen to get a French bulldog and call it Barry, so that is exactly what we did. The dogs are firm pals (after a very spiky first month!). Barry is such a character and has definitely given Ellie a new lease of life.
I first came across Mayhew at a pet blessing service at our local church in Kensal Green, which is held each year and dedicated to all the pets of the congregation and beyond. Speakers from Mayhew attended the service, and I was really struck by the work you do and the dedication of the staff.
I’m a patron of Vision Care for Homeless People (VCHP), a charity that provides free eyecare to people experiencing homelessness at drop-in centres across the UK, so Mayhew’s work looking after rough sleepers’ animals resonates deeply with me. This growing population is so often overlooked or misunderstood, and an animal companion can be a life saver.
Your overseas work is such a wonderful example of the indomitable spirit of Mayhew. I was honoured to host the event last year and bowled over by the determination and positivity of the teams in Afghanistan and Georgia. They’ve achieved such a great deal in very challenging circumstances. What blazes through, no matter how limited resources are or how widespread the issues appear, is their love and respect for the animals they deal with.
One moment that stands out is filming a scene with a huge horse called Mark for ITV’s Lark Rise to Candleford a few years back. Every time ‘action’ was called, Mark would let out the loudest and longest fart you’ve ever heard. We thought it might have been nerves, but Mark’s owner put it down to the local hay playing havoc with his insides!
I’m currently in rehearsals for The Mirror and the Light [part of the Wolf Hall trilogy], which opens on 6 October at the Gielgud Theatre in London. This is particularly exciting as I co-wrote the script with Hilary Mantel. Alongside this, I’ll be filming series two of The Capture for the BBC. I’ll also be starring in a new, as-yet-untitled Star Wars series for the Disney Channel, which should air later in the year.
Photo by Keith Pattinson
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