TV star Ben goes from Shameless streets to Yorkshire moors on stage in Sheffield

Ben Batt as George in The York Realist, starring alongside Downton Abbey's Lesley Nicol as his mum
Ben Batt as George in The York Realist, starring alongside Downton Abbey's Lesley Nicol as his mum
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Shameless star Ben Batt has moved from the seedy Chatsworth Estate to a farm in the beautiful North Yorkshire moors for his new stage role at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield

Ben, who was baddie Joe in the classic comedy drama about life on a rundown Manchester estate, is a far more sympathetic character in the story, set in the 1960s.

He said: “I play George, who is a farmer from Yorkshire. The play is about a theatre assistant director who comes from London to work on a production of the York mystery plays.

“They are Bible stories done by the community and maybe one or two professional actors. George is playing a soldier and he has not been going to rehearsals.

“John is sent to his farmhouse to find out why. He meets George’s family and quickly realises they are falling in love and going to begin a relationship.

“You watch the journey of their relationship and get to know the family.”

He added: “He’s a sturdy masculine character who, on the surface, appears to be pretty together and emotionally strong. You can plot and chart his breakdown.

“He falls in love with John and comes to the realisation that this probably won’t work.”

Ben said he could relate to George’s feeling out of place and longing to be an actor but being unable to break free of his life.

He turned to acting only when his first ambition to be a professional rugby player was halted by injury. He broke his ankle during a game.

Ben, who is from Wigan, played for England Schoolboys rugby union and his mum’s cousin is former Great Britain rugby league scrum half Andy Gregory.

He said: “I’d always been a show-off. I always like to put on plays with my sister for the family whenever they got together.

“My mum’s a primary school teacher and she would always put on the school plays. But I always thought I’d be a sportsman.”

Encouraged by a school drama teacher Chris Norris, Ben was inspired to take drama exams and then realised acting was his new passion.

His breakthrough role on TV was appearing in Shameless. He said: “I was there for two and a half years and really, really enjoyed it. There were people who didn’t like the last four series but it was an amazing place to learn your trade and the first four to five series were brilliant.

“It was great to work with David Threlfall who was a bit of a father figure to me. He’s going to try to come and see the play.”

Ben also met fiancee Rebecca Atkinson, who played Karen, on set and actually read for a part in the show with her when he auditioned.

The couple now have a two-year-old son, Jack, and Ben has started taking a photograph with him on stage at every theatre he works in.

Ben said he also gets recognised for his role in TV crime drama Scott & Bailey, starring Suranne Jones and Lesley Sharp, in which he played DC Kevin Lumb.Ben is excited to be coming to Sheffield in the play, which has been directed by Sheffield Theatres boss Rob Hastie at the Donmar Warehouse in London.

He said: “We’ve done the play for a London audience for six weeks and had incredible reviews. To take the play to Yorkshire and see what response we get is going to be really, really exciting.”

The York Realist is at the Crucible from March 27 to April 7.