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Moving moments with the midwives; Nuns, nativity and newborns all make Nonnatus House the place to be this Christmas. Lisa Williams welcomes back the cast of Call The Midwife.

Is there a more appropriate place to celebrate Christmas than at Nonnatus House, the convent at the heart of Call The Midwife? After all, it's 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. "There's a nostalgia, without being schmaltzy or too much, and it's hard-hitting with its stories but at the same time it's underlined by the nativity and the warmth of Nonnatus House," says Helen George, who plays glamorous young midwife Trixie. There's 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.

"She's a woman who has been broken by the harsh Victorian institution of the workhouse, and Jenny helps rehabilitate her," says Jessica Raine, who plays Jenny.

There's 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, admits 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 doesn't 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 says. 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. "She helps a young girl who fell pregnant deal with the shame of telling her parents and potentially having to give the child up for adoption," explains Hart. "It was very moving. And the actress who played the part was so young but so mature and a brilliant actress already."

But, Chummy being Chummy, there are some laughs as well, and her work as cub pack leader with lots of unruly children lends some much-needed light relief to the episode. "She gets quite bossy in her attempt to make it perfect," says Hart.

Of course, the other midwives are roped into helping, and Nonnatus House is filled with fabric, crepe 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 says: "We film in this big village hall, and if you can imagine there are cameras everywhere, small little children who've 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's not just the child actors and babies who shed tears. Agutter reveals that she finds it very hard to be as calm as Sister Julienne during the birth scenes, one of which opens the Christmas special. The actress says: "I found myself very emotionally involved with that birth scene.

I found the moment of holding this baby overwhelmingly emotional but that's 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 sometimes. 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. "It does get you, you can't help it, whether you're acting in it or watching it," he says. "There's something about the show which 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's really rare and really special." | Call The Midwife is on BBC One on Christmas Day at 7.30pm 25 MOVIES NOT TO BE MISSED! PAGES 18&19
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Dec 16, 2012
Words:740
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