Aspiring young actor Cai Brigden has gone back to school for his latest role and it’s one that is winning him critical and public acclaim.
The former Royal Latin student is starring in a revival of Julian Mitchell’s Another Country which has just opened at Chichester Festival Theatre and may, eventually, transfer to the West End.
The original stage and film versions catapulted Ken Branagh, Daniel-Day Lewis, Rupert Everett and Colin Firth to fame and the new is are hoping to follow in their footsteps.
The fictional story, loosely based on the Cambridge Spies, is set in a 1930s public school where a friendship between two of its outspoken main characters eventually leads to them betraying their country.
Cai, 23, from Singleborough near Great Horwood, plays a senior boy, Delahay, who leads school sports and shows a spectacular lack of sympathy towards the radical Communist Judd and the flamboyantly gay Bennett (who is modelled on Guy Burgess).
“Delahay is a very narrow-minded and selfish type, unemotional, unable to connect to the other boys. He’s the sports captain and Bennett accuses him of cheating his way to success on the field. It’s a tremendous part.
“We’ve had some amazing reviews. Everyone in the cast (which includes Sir Richard Attenborough’s grandson Will as Judd and film’s Son of Rambow star, Bill Milner, as fag Wharton) get on so well. No big egos. Whenever there was a break in rehearsals we’d all go out and play ball”.
Julian Wadham, the only adult in the cast, played one of the boys in the original 1982 production, and returns as a visiting writer. “He’s the biggest party animal of us all,” confessed Cai. “We often all go out together and he’s dancing until dawn!”
Cai decided that he wanted to be an actor at the age of six after hearing that drama school students got free tickets to the zoo to study the animals. He started performing in Midsummer Night’s Dream at Great Horwood Primary School before going on to appear in everything he could at Royal Latin.
“I was a bit of a show-boater. Royal Latin was great for drama. I’d try for parts in everything.
“When I eventually got to drama school I found out that the zoo visits were real. We had to pick an animal to study and then perform as the creature. I originally picked a gorilla but was told it was too close to how I am! So I settled on a wallaby, which was the first animal I saw. That was really tough.”
It’s likely that the need to perform is genetic. Both his parents were actors. As Janthea Williams his mother appeared in The West End as well as Tales of the Unexpected and The Professionals while his “action-man” father, Steve, was in the iconic movie, Flash Gordon, as well as a number of TV series in the 1980s and ‘90s. Sister Rheya is a film director and younger brother Flyn, 13, hopes to be a writer.
As a child Cai loved watching his father, who was skilled in combat and swordplay, train, and now dreams of being the next superhero…or Wolverine should Hugh Jackman hang up the claws.
“My ideal dream job would be to play a Marvel superhero or be in something with swords like Game of Thrones,” said Cai, who, so far this year, has appeared in both Casualty and Doctors for the BBC .
Since leaving drama school the rising star has shot an independent movie, The Telemachy, based on Homer’s Odyssey, which is being shown around international film festivals, and starred on London stage in Simon Gray’s Butley. He’s also hoping to appear in a new film being shot in South Africa in 2014.
“I had to turn the role down because I wanted to do Another Country but the director has put off filming for a year so that I can do it, which is fantastic” said Cai.
Another Country runs until October 19.