AFTER 15 months away from acting after having a baby, Clare Buckfield, star of 2point4 Children and Dancing On Ice, is returning to the stage in Windsor playing Mrs Herriott in All Creatures Great and Small.
This evening Clare will return to acting in the stage show of the popular TV series as it starts in Windsor.
She plays Helen, who the vet, James Herriott falls in love with. Also starring in the play are Corrie's Oliver Mellor, Susan Penhaligon, known for Bouquet of Barbed Wire, Blue Peter favourite, Mark Curry and Steps singer, Lee Latchford-Evans.
Clare said: "We have only had just under two weeks rehearsals, which is kind of heard of with a play. It has been good fun.
"It is a lovely cast and we have all pulled together."
I spoke to her just the day before the opening night.
She said: "I get super nervous. I think it would be strange if I didn't. I love the first night- there is a special thrill you get."
The story follows James Herriott arriving in a farming village and finding a vet job. He then meets Helen and it is a case of 'will they won't they?' She said of her character: "She's quite feisty. Her mother died about ten years ago in the play. She has been running the farm and playing mum to her younger sister."
But it is strange for the 38-year-old, as she used to watch the TV series, which ran from 1978 to 1990, when she was younger.
She said: "You either went to bed on a Sunday night, or you were allowed to stay up and watch it when you were younger. I was allowed to stay up and watch it with my parents.
"People say, 'Doesn't it involve animals?' Clearly there are animals, but we leave it to the power of the imagination."
Clare has been taking some time out for the last 15 months as she has had her first child, a son called Johnny Flynn.
She was performing in The Vagina Monologues until she was about eight months pregnant.
She said: "He is gorgeous. This is my first time away from him. It is not a massive long tour so I will see how I feel with it. He is coming on the road with me."
Clare lives in Cambridgeshire, which is where her identical twin and actress, Julie, also lives among the rest of her family.
The two sisters competed for the role of Jenny Porter in 2point4 Children to replace Clare Woodgate after the first two series.
Clare landed the role and starred in the popular show up until 2000, when actor Gary Olsen, who played the dad in the show, died from cancer.
She said: "We had a massive reunion three years ago, obviously the people who are still with us.
"I caught up with everyone. I am still in touch with John Pickard- I did a play with him recently.
"I am in touch with Belinda Lang, who has not long played the theatre in Windsor. She saw the poster for All Creatures Great and Small and got in touch."
And she has very fond memories from starring in the show: "We just used to be so silly. Gary was a child and Belinda was constantly telling Gary off. It was really fun."
Clare has starred in many stage productions since then and has also appeared in episodes of Doctors and Dangerfield, and was cast in Steel River Blues.
She also came second in Dancing on Ice in 2007, missing out on the top spot to Kyran Bracken.
She did a Christmas special in 2008 with former Hear'Say singer and Beaconsfield resident, Suzanne Shaw, who she will be staying with while she is at Windsor.
Clare said: "We became such good friends on the series and remained friends ever since and I am staying with her family."
But has she managed to keep the skating up since being on the show?
She said: "I haven't had the time since I became a mummy but I kept skating up until I was pregnant. I am sure I will go back to it.
"Kyran Bracken and I, we just kept it up. It is great for fitness."
All Creatures Great and Small is at Windsor Theatre Royal until May 31 at 8pm with a Thursday matinee at 2.30pm and a Saturday matinee at 4.45pm. Tickets are £11 to £31.50 from 01753 853888 or go to www.theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk.
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