Musical favourite “My Fair Lady” has toured the country and is back in Sydney at the Capitol Theatre from 24 Aug. We sat down with British actor Charles Edwards —“Downton Abbey,” “The Halcyon”—who plays Professor Higgins, to discuss his role and performing here in Australia.
How does it feel to perform in Australia? Have you worked here before?
I haven’t worked here before, and I’m having a terrific time. I’ve spent time in Australia before but never for work. The audiences have been fantastic. Nightly standing ovations are rare in England so it’s nice to be reminded what it feels like.
This production of “My Fair Lady” has been a huge success in Australia, why do you think this is?
“My Fair Lady” is a show that holds a very special place in the hearts of many people. This production not only offers the considerable appeal of Julie Andrews as its director, it also offers the most beautiful re-creation of the original Broadway production coupled with a stunning lineup of Australian actors including Reg Livermore and Robyn Nevin, and a truly fabulous Eliza Doolittle in Anna O’Byrne. It is a one-off opportunity, for us and for the audience; this production won’t happen again with Julie Andrews at the helm. It’s a very special event.
What drew you to the role of Professor Higgins?
Higgins is a man who you don’t think will ever change, but then at the end of the show, he just might. That is always an appeal when choosing any role as there is an arc to play, the character learns something about themselves, and the fun for me is in the plotting of that arc. Another great appeal is finding ways to play a character that perhaps haven’t been addressed before, and Higgins is ideal for that.
Was acting something you always wanted to do?
Yes, for as long as I can remember I have wanted to do it. I was quite shy about it as a child but once I was given opportunities at school, I found that it suited me. The thing about acting is that if you are a private sort of person, there are endless outlets available to you to be the opposite on the stage and on the screen. Acting is all about wearing a mask after all, and saying other people’s words, and I think that’s why many actors find fulfillment on the stage.
You’ve had an illustrious career in theatre, television and movies. Do you have a preference for one over the other?
There are some actors to whom the idea of going on a stage is absolute anathema, they are very happy in film and television, and that’s fine. I enjoy working in all three very much, but I have to say that theatre is where most of my job satisfaction boxes are ticked. I generally have a good time wherever I’m working because I’m very lucky to be working at all, but it’s true what they say about live performance; it carries with it considerable risk and demands on your energy, but when it goes as it should and if you are one of those who have an inclination towards it, it’s very hard to beat.
What do you like to do in your downtime in-between performances?
Sleep and eat. My Lonely Planets are gathering dust. My intentions are always noble at the start of each week but I’m finding that Professor Higgins rather takes it out of me. That’s not to say that we don’t find the opportunities to have some excellent company time together when not onstage; Sunday nights are our time, we have the next day off so that’s when we go out. Mondays are for recovery. I now love Mondays in the same way that most people love Saturdays.
What sights are you looking forward to seeing in Sydney?
I’m looking forward to making up my own mind about the rivalry between Melbourne and Sydney. Melbourne’s doing pretty well so far but let’s see what two months in Sydney has to say about that.
Are you taking any time after this run of “My Fair Lady” finishes to tour around Australia before venturing back to the U.K.?
No, I’m booked on an early flight the next morning—I was filming in Budapest before I came to Australia and I’ve been away from the U.K. since February. I have taken in a lot on my travels this year, so by October I’ll be keen to get home to my newly renovated house. I’ve no idea yet what I’ll be doing next but that’s all part of the deal. Something will turn up.