Charles Edwards looks like the quintessential well-bred Englishman of a certain class who can be seen in countless British television series.
Fans of Downton Abbey will recall him as the dishy newspaper editor/lover of Lady Edith, Michael Gregson, who had the misfortune to disappear in Europe at a time when fascism was on the rise and no trace of Gregson could be found.
More recently this dapper chap has gone over to the ‘dark side’, playing the villain Lucian in the recent English wartime television series The Halcyon. In between, he has been a much admired actor on the West End and Broadway, as well as film and several other television series.
Right now he is calling Australia home, playing Professor Henry Higgins in the 60th anniversary production of Lerner and Loewe’s classic musical My Fair Lady.
The original 1956 Broadway hit starred a young Julie Andrews (now Dame Julie) who ventured to Australia to direct a very special re-creation of this much loved show. It’s a milestone not lost on Charles Edwards.
“I have always had my eye on Higgins and I am very happy (and lucky) to be playing him in such a once-in-a-lifetime production,” Charles tells Warcry.
Charles is full of admiration for his famous director and relishes the opportunity to work with her.
“This particularly unique production with Dame Julie at the wheel won’t happen again. To witness Julie’s remembering of it all these years later has been very moving and inspiring,” Charles says.
Born in Surrey, England in 1969, Charles Edwards is the youngest of four brothers and was educated at Winchester, one of England’s most prestigious schools, where his zest for life and impish sense of humour weren’t always appreciated by the masters.
To liven things up a bit, young Charles decided to write pop song lyrics and other innovative answers in a religious studies paper. Recalling that time, Charles tweeted a quote from the examiner that his work was “really offensive and not the sort of thing one expects from a school like Winchester”!
His post-Winchester studies were at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, from which he graduated in 1992. His first professional role was in Noel Coward’s period comedy Blithe Spirit, and he carved out for himself a significant stage career in London and New York.
In 2014, Blithe Spirit entered his life again when he took a leading role opposite veteran performer Angela Lansbury in both the West End and Broadway productions of the comedy.
Shakespeare has also featured largely in Charles’ life, with acclaimed roles in many Shakespearean productions, including playing Oberon to Dame Judi Dench’s Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and joining Dame Judi again in Coward’s Hay Fever, as well as a role in the film Philomena, which starred Dame Judi in the title role.
It just goes to show that Charles is certainly used to working with the grande dames of the theatre world.
His first role on Broadway was as Richard Hannay in The 39 Steps in 2007, which followed his success in the London production of 2006, making him the only actor who transferred from the London show to the Broadway one.
Australian audiences may also have seen his Shakespearean tour de force in the title role of Richard II at London’s Globe Theatre, which was filmed and screened in cinemas here.
Charles feels he is on a voyage of discovery playing Higgins in My Fair Lady, which happens to be his first musical.
“For me and Higgins, there is so much tucked away in the character that I am still stumbling across and surprised by and that makes him endlessly rewarding to play,” he explains to Warcry.
And also endlessly rewarding for an audience to watch.