Meeting Edward Judge it is not hard to guess which of The History Boys he is playing in the new production at the Crucible Theatre.
He has a similar roly-poly shape to James Corden who had his first big break playing Timms in the original National Theatre production of Alan Bennett’s play and the subsequent film.
“Yes, I’m Timms. He is the joker, he’s always the first to react with something to say,,” says Judge. “It’s a light-hearted role and that’s why it fitted James Corden so well.”
For the actor who grew up in Surrey, his first challenge was to get the accent right for Alan Bennett’s comedy set in a fictional boys’ grammar school in Sheffield in the early 1980s,
The play follows a group of pupils who have stayed on after their A levels to prepare for the Oxbridge entrance examinations under the guidance of three teachers with contrasting styles.
Judge might have entered that world himself. “I was the only person in my primary school who took the 11-plus which was optional,” he recalls.
“I had a tutor and got into the old boys grammar school but we moved and it was too far for me to travel. I must say I was more excited about going to the comprehensive.”
His ambitions were not academic, however. “At the age of 17 I realised acting could be more than a hobby but statistically it is harder to get into RADA or LAMDA than Oxbridge,” he says.
Instead he got a place to read drama at Essex University but it only lasted one week. “In the summer I had auditioned for Spring Awakening (an American rock musical transferring to London) and on the Friday lunch-time of the first week I got a call to say I had got it. I was worried when I had to tell my tutor but he said it was too good a chance to miss. They were understanding and said if things didn’t work out I could come back.”
That hasn’t been necessary even though the run of Spring Awakening ended prematurely. Judge found himself in an another American export, Avenue Q, both in the West End and on tour.
“I came to Sheffield with it in 2011 and remember living in Crookes and being taken with the view of the city.”
Coming to a straight play after musicals has proved interesting for Judge. “There is so much text work involved, especially in such a well-educated piece,” he reflects.
Among Judge’s credits is an episode of Holby City, what was his part in that?. “I was a patient with - can you guess? - an eating disorder,” he says, adding that it doesn’t worry if him to be continually cast in fat roles..
“I grew up living above the village shop where there were constant snacks on hand. I am happy there are all these parts for me to play.”
The History Boys continues at the Crucible Theatre until June 12.