EMOTIONAL STORYLINES HAVE YOU CRYING LIKE A NEWBORN
When: Christmas Day, 7.30pm.
Where: BBC One.
Nuns, nativity and newborns all make Nonnatus House the place to be this Christmas. Lisa Williams speaks to the cast of Call The Midwife
I s there a more appropriate place to celebrate Christmas than at Nonnatus House, the convent at the heart of Call The Midwife?
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After all, it is a place of warmth and holiness, and the nuns regard the Advent as a particularly special time.
Also, in keeping with the nativity theme, their daily business – and that of the young nurses who live there – is to deliver babies.
Add to that the real Nativity play being staged by Chummy and her pack of cubs, and you have all the ingredients for the perfect Christmas special.
Helen George, who plays glamorous young midwife Trixie, said: "There is a nostalgia, without being schmaltzy or too much. It is hard-hitting with its stories but at the same time it is underlined by the nativity and the warmth of Nonnatus House."
There is never a shortage of drama in Call The Midwife, and the Christmas special is no exception.
Main character Jenny (based on the late Jennifer Worth, author of the Call The Midwife memoirs), comes across a haggard old lady called Mrs Jenkins and demonstrates the true meaning of Christmas by befriending her and helping to heal her physical and emotional ailments.
Jessica Raine, who plays Jenny, said: "She's a woman who has been broken by the harsh Victorian institution of the workhouse, and Jenny helps rehabilitate her."
There is a particularly moving moment to look out for when scenes of Jenny washing Mrs Jenkins are set to the sound of the nuns singing beautifully in Latin.
Jenny Agutter, who plays Sister Julienne, said she finds the spiritual side of her character "difficult to get hold of", but even she found this part of the episode incredibly moving.
"To them, the word 'charity' does not mean just giving to fill the gaps. Charity is the essence of giving your love as best you can. Repairing the damage done to this woman, and the nuns singing, is a beautiful juxtaposition," she said.
Another emotional storyline involves an under-age pregnancy and the effect it has on the young girl and her family.
Chummy (played by Miranda Hart) is particularly involved in this story.
Hart said: "She helps a pregnant young girl deal with the shame of telling her parents and potentially giving the child up for adoption.
"It was very moving. The actress who played the part was so young but so mature."
Chummy being Chummy, there are some laughs as well. Her work as cubpack leader with unruly children lends some much-needed light relief to the episode.
Hart said: "She gets quite bossy in her attempt to make it perfect."
Of course, the other midwives are roped into helping, and Nonnatus House is filled with fabric, crêpe paper and sewing machines as the girls get to work on the costumes.
Filming the scenes of the final play was even more chaotic. As George said: "We film in this big village hall and, if you can imagine, there are cameras everywhere and small children who have just been put in the most uncomfortable Fifties donkey ears and woollen clothing.
"We filmed in June when it was too warm to wear knits, so there were a lot of dramas and lots of crying."
And it is not just the child actors and babies who shed tears. Agutter said she found it very hard to be as calm as Sister Julienne during the birth scenes, one of which opens the Christmas special.
The actress said: "I found myself very emotionally involved with that birth scene. I found the moment of holding this baby overwhelmingly emotional but that is not Sister Julienne so it was very important to sit on that."
Even the few men in the cast struggle to hold back the tears.
Ben Caplan, who plays Chummy's husband PC Peter Noakes, has just welcomed a baby himself, so found himself welling up when the birth scenes were being filmed.
Capalan said: "It does get you, you just can't help it, whether you are acting in it or watching it afterwards.
"There is something about the show that just gets hold of you and you can't resist it. You are overwhelmed by the stories and you care about the people.
"That mix of happiness, pathos and tragedy – it is really rare and really special."