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Haydn Gwynne

Haydn Gwynne
Gwynne in 2015
Born(1957-03-21)21 March 1957
Hurstpierpoint, West Sussex, England
Died20 October 2023(2023-10-20) (aged 66)
London, England
Years active1984–2023
Known forDrop the Dead Donkey
PartnerJason Phipps

Haydn Gwynne (/ˈhdən ˈɡwɪn/; 21 March 1957 – 20 October 2023) was an English actress. She was nominated for the 1992 BAFTA TV Award for Best Light Entertainment Performance for the comedy series Drop the Dead Donkey (1990–1991), and won the 2009 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical for her role in the Broadway production of Billy Elliot the Musical. She was also a five-time Olivier Award nominee, winning her first posthumously in 2024. Her other television roles included Peak Practice (1999–2000), Merseybeat (2001–2002), and playing Camilla in The Windsors from 2016 until her death in 2023.

Early life and education

Haydn Gwynne was born on 21 March 1957 in Hurstpierpoint, Sussex, to Rosamond (née Dobson) and Guy Thomas Haydn Gwynne (1915–1994).[1]

She played county level tennis before studying sociology at the University of Nottingham,[2] and was fluent in French and Italian. After university she took a five-year lectureship in Italy at the University of Rome La Sapienza, where she taught English as a foreign language.[3]


Gwynne became an actor in her mid-twenties. One of her first television roles was as Cosima in the Lovejoy two-part special "Death and Venice" (1986).[4] She played feminist lecturer Dr Robyn Penrose in the BBC television mini-series dramatisation of David Lodge's Nice Work in 1989.[5]

Her first high-profile comedy role was as Alex Pates in Drop the Dead Donkey in 1990. She then appeared in the 1991 Children's ITV science-fiction series Time Riders and later became a regular in Peak Practice; first appearing at the start of series 7 (episode 1) in 1999 as Dr Joanna Graham. The character of Dr Graham was written out of the show at the end of series 9 (episode 13) when she was fatally shot whilst intervening in a conflict between a man and his daughter. After Peak Practice, Gwynne went on to star in Merseybeat in 2001.[6]

In 2002, she starred in the television drama for the BBC The Secret playing the character of Emma Faraday.[7]

Her theatre work included regional and London-based appearances, from the Octagon, Bolton, in Hedda Gabler, to Richard Cheshire's Way of the World appearing in West End productions of Ziegfeld as Billie Burke (1988),[8] City of Angels and Billy Elliot the Musical at the Victoria Palace Theatre, for which she was nominated for an Olivier Award.[2] She reprised her role as Mrs Wilkinson in the Broadway production of Billy Elliot, which opened at the Imperial Theatre on 13 November 2008.[9] Gwynne was awarded the Outer Critics Circle Award, Theatre World Award, and Drama Desk Award for her performance in Billy Elliot. She was also nominated for a 2009 Tony Award, Featured Actress in a Musical.[10]

She also performed in numerous productions for the Royal Shakespeare Company.[11] Her later television appearances were usually in shorter dramas, such as the role of Julius Caesar's wife, Calpurnia, in the TV series Rome. She also appeared in the first Christmas special episode of Midsomer Murders "Ghosts of Christmas Past" (2004) as Jennifer Carter.[12] Gwynne guest-starred in an episode of Lewis in the first of a new series (2008). She appeared in the first episode of series 2, "And the Moonbeams Kiss the Sea", playing the character of Sandra Walters.[13][14] She guest starred in the BBC TV series Sherlock in the episode "The Great Game" (2010), as a museum curator, Miss Wenceslas. She appeared in the 2011 film Hunky Dory.[15]

She performed at the Almeida Theatre in Islington in a performance of Becky Shaw[16] which ran from 20 January until 5 March 2011. She also appeared in a second episode of the Midsomer Murders series 14, called "Dark Secrets" as Maggie Viviani which aired in Britain in 2011.[17][18] She starred in Shakespeare's play Richard III alongside Kevin Spacey at The Old Vic in London during summer 2011 as part of the Bridge Project.[19]

In October and November 2012, Gwynne toured in the play Duet for One.[20] In 2013, she appeared as Margaret Thatcher in the premiere of the stage play The Audience by Peter Morgan.[21]

In 2014, she featured in an episode of Ripper Street as a woman living her life as a man to escape what she felt were the horrors of being a woman.[22] In 2015 she starred alongside Tamsin Greig in the new musical Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, based on the Pedro Almodóvar film, at The Playhouse in London.[23]

In January 2014, Gwynne appeared in the episode "Fraternity" of the BBC forensic science series Silent Witness,[24] followed by appearances in another two BBC series in February: the British sitcom Uncle and the crime comedy-drama Death in Paradise (Series 3, Episode 5).[25] In 2015, she appeared in the BBC Father Brown episode, "The Last Man".[26]

In 2016, she starred as Mrs Peacham in Simon Stephens' adaptation of Bertolt Brecht's and Kurt Weill's Threepenny Opera, alongside Rory Kinnear as Macheath, Nick Holder as Mr Peacham, Rosalie Craig as Polly Peacham and Sharon Small as Jenny Diver at the National Theatre in London.[citation needed] In the same year, she played Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, in the Channel Four sitcom The Windsors, which presents a parodic version of the British royal family.[27] In October 2021, she took over the role of Evangeline Harcourt for the final weeks of the London revival of Anything Goes at the Barbican Theatre.[28] In 2022, she played Susan Hussey in the fifth series of The Crown, also written by Peter Morgan.[29]

In 2023, Gwynne starred as Pam Lee, a version of the real-life judge Prue Leith, in The Great British Bake Off Musical,[30] and as Stanley Baldwin in Jack Thorne's play When Winston Went to War With the Wireless at the Donmar Warehouse.[31]

In 2022, she performed "The Ladies Who Lunch" in a gala tribute to Stephen Sondheim, Old Friends.[32] She was forced to withdraw from the subsequent run of the show, a few days before its opening, in September 2023. At that stage, her withdrawal was attributed to "sudden personal circumstances".[33]

In 2024, Gwynne posthumously won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role at that year's ceremony, for her performance in When Winston Went to War With the Wireless.[34]

Personal life, illness and death

Gwynne lived in London. She had two sons with her partner Jason Phipps.[3][35]

She undertook voluntary work for the charity Sightsavers International, a group committed to combating blindness in developing countries. In August 2014, she was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to The Guardian opposing Scottish independence in the run-up to September's referendum on that issue.[36]

Gwynne died on 20 October 2023, aged 66, following a cancer diagnosis one month earlier.[35][37][38][32]

Awards and nominations


Year Award Award Work Result
1992 British Academy Television Award[39] Best Light Entertainment Performance Drop the Dead Donkey Nominated


Year Award Category Work Result
1994 Laurence Olivier Award[40] Best Actress in a Musical City of Angels Nominated
2006 Laurence Olivier Award[41] Best Actress in a Musical Billy Elliot the Musical Nominated
2009 Tony Award[42] Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical Nominated
Drama Desk Award[43] Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical Won
Outer Critics Circle Award[44] Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical Won
Theatre World Award[45] Honoree
2015 Laurence Olivier Award[46] Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Musical Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown Nominated
2017 Laurence Olivier Award[47] Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Musical The Threepenny Opera Nominated
2024 Laurence Oliver Award[48] Best Actress in a Supporting Role When Winston Went to War With the Wireless Won


  1. ^ "FreeBMD Entry Info".
  2. ^ a b Shoard, Catherine (11 April 2005), "All-singing, all-dancing, all-smoking", The Daily Telegraph
  3. ^ a b Woods, Judith (12 January 2015). "'I'm not sure there was much demand for tall ingénues with long noses'". The Telegraph.
  4. ^ "Death and Venice (1)". TV Maze. Retrieved 22 October 2023.
  5. ^ " 'Nice Work' Listing" Retrieved 20 April 2015
  6. ^ Lawson, Mark (20 October 2023). "Haydn Gwynne was an inquisitive actor, charismatic company – and great fun". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 October 2023.
  7. ^ "BBC Programme Index". 13 April 2002. Retrieved 25 October 2023.
  8. ^ " 'Ziegfeld' Credits" Retrieved 20 April 2015
  9. ^ "'Billy Elliot' announces its New York cast". Associated Press. 16 July 2008. Retrieved 21 July 2008. [dead link]
  10. ^ "Haydn Gwynne". Playbill. Retrieved 19 April 2015.
  11. ^ "Search RSC Performances".
  12. ^ "Midsomer Murders: Ghosts of Christmas Past (2004) | MUBI". Mubi. Retrieved 25 October 2023.
  13. ^ " 'Lewis. Moonbeams' Cast and Crew" Archived 24 May 2016 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 20 April 2015
  14. ^ " 'And the Moonbeams Kiss the Sea' Listing" Archived 27 April 2015 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 20 April 2015
  15. ^ " 55th BFI London Film Festival: 'Hunky Dory'" Archived 29 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine, 26 October 2011
  16. ^ "Becky Shaw". Archived from the original on 12 January 2011.
  17. ^ Cumming, Ed. " 'Midsomer Murders', ITV1, preview" The Telegraph, 29 March 2011
  18. ^ " 'Dark Secrets'" Retrieved 20 April 2015
  19. ^ Michael Billington "Richard III – review, The Old Vic", The Guardian, 29 June 2011
  20. ^ Paul Vale "Duet For One", The Stage, 3 October 2012
  21. ^ Taylor, Paul. "Review: 'The Audience', Gielgud Theatre, London" The Independent, 6 March 2013
  22. ^ "BBC Two – Ripper Street, Series 3, Live Free, Live True". BBC. Retrieved 25 October 2023.
  23. ^ Billington, Michael. " 'Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown' review – West End musical is screwball fun" The Guardian, 12 January 2015
  24. ^ "Fraternity" BBC. Retrieved 19 April 2015
  25. ^ "BBC One – Death in Paradise, Series 3, Episode 5". BBC. Retrieved 25 October 2023.
  26. ^ "BBC One – Father Brown, Series 3, The Last Man". BBC. Retrieved 25 October 2023.
  27. ^ "Channel 4 comedy The Windsors to see the funny side of Kate, Wills and the British monarchy". Radio Times. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
  28. ^ Cristi, A. A. (23 September 2021). "Rachel York and Haydn Gwynne to Join ANYTHING GOES West End; Performances Added". Playbill. Retrieved 2 November 2021.
  29. ^ Kaloi, Stephanie (2 December 2022). "Who Is Prince William's Godmother, Lady Susan Hussey?". The List. Retrieved 25 October 2023.
  30. ^ Davis, Clive (24 June 2023). "The Great British Bake off Musical review — a fluffy show that's risen beautifully".
  31. ^ Akbar, Arifa (14 June 2023). "When Winston Went to War With the Wireless review – radio is the star of BBC crisis drama". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 March 2024.
  32. ^ a b Wood, Alex (20 October 2023). "Haydn Gwynne has died aged 66". Retrieved 20 October 2023.
  33. ^ Staff Writer (7 September 2023). "Opening of Stephen Sondheim's Old Friends Delayed". Theatre Weekly. Retrieved 20 October 2023.
  34. ^ "Olivier Awards 2024 winners LIVE – as they're announced". 14 April 2024. Retrieved 14 April 2024.
  35. ^ a b Wiegand, Chris (20 October 2023). "Haydn Gwynne, star of stage and screen, dies aged 66". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 20 October 2023.
  36. ^ "Celebrities' open letter to Scotland – full text and list of signatories | Politics". The Guardian. 7 August 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  37. ^ "Actress Haydn Gwynne dies aged 66". BBC News. 20 October 2023. Retrieved 20 October 2023.
  38. ^ "Actress Haydn Gwynne dies aged 66". York Press. 20 October 2023.
  39. ^ "Television in 1992 | BAFTA Awards". Retrieved 19 February 2021.
  40. ^ "Olivier Winners 1994". Olivier Awards. Retrieved 19 February 2021.
  41. ^ "Olivier Winners 2006". Olivier Awards. Retrieved 19 February 2021.
  42. ^ Variety Staff (8 June 2009). "2009 Tony Awards winners list". Variety. Retrieved 19 February 2021.
  43. ^ Cox, Gordon (18 May 2009). "'Billy' dominates Drama Desk Awards". Variety. Retrieved 19 February 2021.
  44. ^ "Haydn Gwynne". Playbill. Retrieved 19 February 2021.
  45. ^ "Theatre World Awards". Retrieved 19 February 2021.
  46. ^ "Olivier Winners 2015". Olivier Awards. Retrieved 19 February 2021.
  47. ^ "Olivier Winners 2017". Olivier Awards. Retrieved 19 February 2021.
  48. ^ "Olivier Awards nominations: shocks, surprises and thrills from today's news". 12 March 2024. Retrieved 23 March 2024.
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Haydn Gwynne
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