Edward Bennett has already arrived at the RSC’s offices in Chapel Lane on a damp, blustery autumnal day.

When we meet he is tucking into a sandwich, with a stripy woollen scarf wrapped around his neck to keep warm.

For a dashing leading man he is refreshingly down-to-earth, jokey and disarmingly charming with a huge boyish grin.

“Would you like half a sandwich?” he asks.

In 2008 Edward was the King of Navarre in the RSC’s last production of Love’s Labour’s Lost with David Tennant as the romantic lead Berowne and Nina Sosanya playing Rosaline.

In the same year the 29-year-old understudy was plucked from the ranks to replace the Doctor Who star for the opening night of Hamlet at London’s Novello Theatre – one of the most hyped productions in West End history.

Edward opened before a packed house of top UK theatre critics and fans who had prompted such a rush on the Novello box office that the entire 36-night run sold out in a single day.

Many Dr Who devotees camped overnight in order to secure a coveted ticket.

Edward wowed the crowds with a brilliant performance and the audience rewarded him with a standing ovation.

But the 35-year-old actor cannot remember a thing about his opening night.

 

“I was on holiday during a break between performances in Stratford-upon-Avon and the Novello Theatre, London.

“We had a lot of rehearsals but I hadn’t rehearsed it for three months. But my girlfriend at the time insisted we read through it.

“When we got back I looked at my phone and saw I had dozens of missed calls. David Tennant had suffered a prolapsed disc in his back.

“There was not time to rehearse. I walked in from where I was living in London, which was probably a mistake, but I needed the time to get my head together,” he says.

“Greg Doran made a lovely speech before I went on about David not being able to perform, and I heard the clatter of chairs as people walked out.

“I cannot remember anything about the show.

“It’s adrenalin. It’s like being in shock. I missed three lines, but after two or three shows they came back. The audience were so lovely. It had a knock-on effect for everyone and it’s testament to the RSC for employing understudies. They bring people up through the ranks as understudies. It was the first time I had done it.”

This time round Edward is Berowne and Benedick in a double-bill of Love’s Labour’s Lost and Love’s Labour’s Won (better known as Much Ado About Nothing). He and Olivier award-winning actor Michelle Terry play the lovers in both romantic comedies set either side of the First World War.

“It’s brilliant. I love it. It’s nice to come back to Love’s Labour’s Lost with a fresh perspective.

“Sam Alexander and Rod(erick) Smith were also in the previous production of Love’s Labour’s Lost. Sam is now the King of Navarre, my role, and I have to say he’s doing a great job.

“I saw the Indian-themed Much Ado About Nothing the last time it was on here in 2012. I have always loved the play and thought Kenneth Branagh’s film was amazing.

“I am playing lead with a really brilliant company. It’s not a figurehead show.

“I’ve worked with David Tennant and Patrick Stewart and it was amazing to learn from them. This is a company I love because there are no stars. Everyone is in it together.”

Edward grew up in the Cotswolds town of Honeybourne and attended Chipping Campden School, doing unpaid work experience at the RSC during his summer holidays. At 14 he was inspired to become an actor by his teacher David Penhale.

“He’s now living in Devon where he plays in a band and paints. He is coming up to see the plays.”

Edward still has a lot to do with his former school and is currently campaigning for a new performance and education space.

Edward appeared in Bond film, Skyfall and War Horse but laughs “I have been lucky to work consistently but I do not have a great track record on film. I always get cut from any film I have been in.

“I was in Skyfall as Ralph Fiennes assistant. I had one line and it got cut. I got offered six days more filming in a shoot out which would have been very well paid and included automatic weapon training. But I couldn’t do it. I was dancing with Sian Phillips, which was infinitely better.

“My shoulder is in War Horse.”