Think Luke Treadaway’s just another frightfully posh, young British actor? Think again. Jimi Famurewa talks chest-waxing and guerilla filmmaking with a country boy done good
Perched on the windowsill of his poky West End dressing room, blowing cigarette smoke into the morning air, Luke Treadaway is trying to delicately describe the time he tucked his genitals between his legs for the benefit of a packed theatre crowd.
“It was for a play called Over There by Mark Ravenhill and it ended with just me and Harry [his twin brother and fellow actor] on stage. I was wearing nothing but pants, high heels, a blonde wig and remnants of food and ketchup that had been smeared on me. It was very European and weird,” he laughs. “I walked to the back of the stage, took my pants off, did a, um, mangina, lay down behind my brother and kissed him [before] the lights went black.”
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The 28-year-old actor, currently deep in rehearsal for the Apollo Theatre run of bestseller-turned-blockbusting play The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time, has primarily told this story to indicate his most embarrassing onstage moment (“My auntie and uncle were in the fourth row. Pretty awkward in the bar afterwards.”)
But it works as a nod to his fearlessness as an actor and, as we discover after an hour in his company, his somewhat schizophrenic nature. On the one hand, he’s a roll-up-smoking, sometime rugby player who loves nothing more than a few pints of forebodingly strong local cider at his hometown pub.
And on the other, he’s a closet rock star who gleefully recounts drunken meetings with strangers in dive bars and professes a love of guerrilla filmmaking that sets him apart from the ever-expanding stable of well-bred Brits colonising Hollywood.
“Making a film [You Instead] in four days at T In The Park was fun,” he grins. “And I also did a short with a director where I ended up driving a people carrier around the National Forest in LA without a licence while speaking Bosnian with a 6ft camera rig outside. An amazing experience.”
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WEIRDNESS AND WAXING
Perhaps best known to date for his uncanny turn as a bewildered poshboy stoner in Attack The Block, Treadaway hails from a small village in Devon. Obsessed with music from an early age (he conspiratorially admits that a love of Eddie Vedder caused him to apply bright orange henna to his scraggly hair as a teenager), he soon formed a band with his twin brother.
This stab at rock stardom, combined with a stint in the National Youth Theatre and drama school LAMDA, led to a breakout role playing (in all seriousness) one half of a pair of punk-playing conjoined twins alongside Harry in Brothers Of The Head. It’s a role Treadaway credits with his openness to a future of genital-tucking and ketchup-smearing.
“That first job put me into such a realm of weirdness that anything after has never seemed as weird,” he says. “My inhibitions are pretty small.”
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This approach has led to some curveball career choices. As well as the cross-dressed cavorting at the Royal Court, Treadaway’s acting CV includes a murder-obsessed loner (TV whodunnit 13 Steps Down) and his latest role as Christopher, the Aspergic 15-year-old sleuth at the heart of The Curious Incident. It’s a role that he fought for and has thrown himself into, plundering episodes of Brian Cox’s Wonders Of The Solar System to tap into his character’s obsession with the cosmos and science.
“It blows my mind,” he says, visibly awed. “I share that wonderment at space and the universe. I cried four times watching the first episode.”
However, it also turns out that playing a convincing teenage boy requires more than merely making your voice a bit squeaky.
“My chest hair is coming off,” he admits, after an exchange about the he-vage baring clothes in his MODE shoot. “I’ve used Veet for jobs in the past, but that sensation of it burning your hair is horrible. So it’ll either be waxing or shaving. I can deal with the pain. My mates, of course, take the p*ss out of me but I can deal with that, too.”
The continuous burble of friendly mick-taking seems important to Treadaway. He shares a chaotic, instrument filled flat in north London with his girlfriend, fellow actor Ruta Gedmintas, a friend who plays in a band and his brother. But he admits an allergy to the “Spotlight and Equity” chat that obsesses some young actors.
“After three years of drama school you talk yourself out of ever wanting to discuss acting ever again,” he says. But surely, with so many friends and a sibling in the same business, he must have found himself battling for the same role as someone he knew?
“There have been times,” he reasons. “But it happens.” Which brings us to the unavoidable, elephant in the room and back to that food-spattered incestuous embrace in Over There. Is there furious competition between him and his brother?
“In Year 9, Harry was the lead in the play, in year 10 I was, and so on. Sometimes it’s gone one way, sometimes the other. But we’ve got different agents and stuff so it’s [not really] an issue.”
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He’s less diplomatic when it comes to who was a better on the rugby pitch. “Oh, I was better,” he laughs. “I was quicker and a harder tackler.”
In fact, rugby is still a huge passion, and the former scrum half lights up as he recounts playing days and underdog triumphs as a kid. “I loved it,” he beams. “My school won the Devon Cup twice which was really exciting. Beating all the posh public schools that had massive facilities, scrum machines and everything was really fun.”
A parable of his against-the-odds bid to topple his privately educated A-list peers? That may be stretching it. But it’s safe to say those schoolboy winners medals won’t be the only gongs on his mantelpiece for much longer.
The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time is on now at the Apollo Theatre, London
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Photography by Ram Shergill. Styling by Barnaby Ash. Hair by John Mullan at Nude agency for Stone hair. Make-up by John-Christopher @ Lovely Management, using Chanel. Photographer assisted by Ben Breuer. Stylist assisted by Kara Kibble and Mandy Pang. Special thanks to Laura and Josy