A lot has happened to Ben Barnes since we were on the Edinburgh Fringe together; The History Boys, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian and the soon to be released Dorian Gray, but some things never change; he's still as funny, friendly and charming as he was when he was starting out, writes Phil Matthews.
Ben, I'm guessing you must have caught the acting bug at school?
It actually sort of came through music, I was in the choir at school. When I was about 15 the National Youth Music Theatre came to do a workshop and asked if I'd like to come to their annual auditions which I consequently did, and ended up basically working with that company for the next six straight summers doing various productions, particularly in Edinburgh, the Opera House in Covent Garden and Bugsy Malone in the West End – that was my first proper job, I was working in the band.
What I really wanted to do was acting, but I had no idea how to go about it
Yeah you're a talented musician I've heard.
I played drums in the band for that show, but there was such a wide variety of new shows as well, it was creative. You felt like you were part of the creative team and that's what I really enjoyed. And then I sort of carried that on after school, when I went to university. My parents just threatened to disown me, basically, if I didn't go to university. So I obviously decided not to go. I took a couple of years out to do various music projects and TV hosting, which I didn't really enjoy because I didn't think I was very good at it, particularly the TV presenting side of things. What I really wanted to do was acting, but I had no idea how to go about it. I'd been writing off hundreds of letters to agents and getting very curt one line replies. So I applied to university and went to Kingston where I studied Drama with English Literature. There was no theatre company at university. Obviously having had a little bit of experience already, I was part of the team who formed the first drama company there and put on the first productions. So I got into directing a lot of plays there and then acted in plays obviously, and then took them up to Edinburgh.
What's your memories of doing Edinburgh?
My first ever experience of the Edinburgh Festival was the one summer that I didn't get into the NYMT. That year I went with my school theatre company and I did a play called Inside the Island which actually got five stars in the Scotsman and it was better received than the NYMT show. That was when I was 16, sleeping on floors with 10 other lads and doing that play. Then I went up with the NYMT several times.