Like many actors, Edward Bluemel had his initial interest in the craft sparked by a school play. And he won the role mainly due to one thing, he says. “When I was 10 or so, I auditioned and got one of the main parts on the basis that I could speak louder than everyone else.”
The school was in his hometown of Taunton and the praise he received after the performance proved a defining moment that would send him down a very different track from the rest of his family. “My mum is an Oxford physicist. My dad is an Oxford chemist. My sister is a Cambridge philosopher and my brother is an Oxford classicist,” he reveals.
In this context his decision to study acting at Royal Welsh College was a bold one, making him the only member of his immediate family not to go to Oxbridge. But it proved successful and showed him that “there’s more to acting than speaking loudly”. At his showcase he got picked up by an agent and immediately cast in a film, a teen drama called Access All Areas.
The film still hasn’t materialised – it’s due out later this year – but he’s worked consistently on screen ever since, notably as Toby Hamilton in ITV drama The Halcyon, set in a smart London hotel during the Second World War. He admits he was fortunate to land such a big show so early in his career and says it highlights “how random this industry is”.
His good fortune has continued. He’s was cast in Trevor Nunn’s revival of Terence Rattigan’s Love In Idleness when it ran at the Menier Chocolate Factory. He’s now transferring with it to the West End’s Apollo theatre. The production marked his professional stage debut and he’s clearly enjoying getting back to his roots. “The last time I was on stage was at drama school two years ago, so I’m thrilled to be doing this. I’m rediscovering my love for theatre.”
His experience in The Halcyon, in which he played a young aristocrat, is also proving valuable. Rattigan’s 1944 play – the third in his trilogy of “war plays” – is set in the same period. Bluemel plays, Michael, who returns home after spending the war as an evacuee in Canada to be reunited with his adored mother. But while Michael has developed socialist leanings overseas, his widowed mother has gone the other way. She’s become the mistress of a right-wing minister.
Michael, who is loosely modelled on Hamlet, is “the classic angry young man”, says Bluemel. “He is very passionate, very clever, and has a lot of echoes of Rattigan himself. He’s been away for ages and has only communicated with his mother through letters, so has to come to terms with how they’ve both changed during that time.”
Considering we’re living in a time of so much intergenerational political conflict – Brexit being the ultimate example – the themes of the play are especially pertinent. Nunn has encouraged the cast to draw out these parallels. “I’ve met so many Michaels,” laughs Bluemel. “To put it in modern terms, he’s a complete millennial snowflake.”
The accomplished four-strong cast also features Eve Best, Anthony Head and Helen George. Bluemel describes them as ideal peers, from whom he is “learning things every day”.
Speaking of peers I’m intrigued to know who, in an ideal world, he would like to emulate. He replies that former History Boy Russell Tovey has had the sort of varied career he craves. And he doesn’t only have his eye on acting work down the line. Writing and directing are also of interest. He currently lives in London with two fellow actors, and says they often collaborate in their spare time. “We come up with ideas all the time but we’re always too busy or too lazy to commit to something. But I’m very keen to write something in the future.”
That is all to come. But from the promising early signs – he’s still only 22 – it seems Bluemel’s schoolboy decision was a smart one.