Actor Ben Woods may be up for a prestigious ‘Offie’ theatre award this year, and living and working in London, but he always makes time to take an important casting call… from his mum.
Ben grew up in Stratford, where he started his acting career playing the young Duke of York in Richard III at the RSC aged 12. His mum, Juliet Moss, still lives here and works as a lifestyle co-ordinator at the Ambleside Care Home, just outside Stratford.
“Mum will ask if I’m free to come up to do a little bit for the residents,” explains Ben of his regular visits to Ambleside. “If I’m free I’m always so very happy to come to Stratford and do some entertainment!”
Ben says he usually does some Shakespeare speeches or a few sonnets and poems – and will do requests. Then he grabs his guitar and plays a couple of songs.”
“Frank Sinatra always goes down well,” laughs Ben. “Come Fly With Me or Fly Me To The Moon are favourites. I’ll also play a few of my own songs that I’ve written for shows.
“I just genuinely have a brilliant time with the residents. I feel like I get so much out of it myself. It’s very rewarding, I love it.”
Speaking of his visit earlier this month, Ben says he was especially moved by one resident’s reaction to his visit.
“I was about to start reciting poem Sea Fever by John Masefield, and Alfie, who has dementia, remembered the poem and started reciting it. It was extraordinary. His daughter Lesley was crying her eyes out, she didn’t even know that he knew the poem.
“I’m getting tearful thinking about it, it was just such a beautiful moment. As an actor on stage you can see people reacting, but not in such an intimate way.”
Visiting Ambleside always gives Ben pause for reflection he says – thinking about the lives of the residents and how important it is that they are in a place that looks after both their physical and emotional needs.
“If my mum – or another loved one – needed to come to a care home I’d really like to think that I’d still be able to do this or that someone would do the same for her.
“During my visit a lady, whose son had passed away a few years ago, told me I always bring joy to her, and how much my visits mean to her – and that’s both heartbreaking and a happy thing.”