Sad news has reached us today as we mourn the loss of the talented actress Haydn Gwynne. In a heartfelt statement, her agent shared that Haydn passed away in the hospital, surrounded by her beloved sons, close family, and friends. We would like to express our gratitude to the dedicated staff at the Royal Marsden and Brompton hospitals for their exceptional care during her final weeks.
Throughout her career, Haydn Gwynne made a lasting impact on both television and stage. Many will remember her for her remarkable portrayal of the sardonic assistant editor, Alex Pates, in Channel 4’s newsroom satire, “Drop the Dead Donkey.” Her performances earned her Olivier and Tony award nominations. Notably, she garnered praise as the dance teacher in “Billy Elliot the Musical” in both London and New York. Her exceptional talent also earned her three Olivier nominations for her roles in “City of Angels,” “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown,” and “The Threepenny Opera.”
Those who had the privilege of working with Haydn Gwynne have paid tribute to her extraordinary qualities. Jack Thorne, the playwright behind “When Winston Went to War With the Wireless,” expressed his admiration by describing Haydn as the “kindest, loveliest soul and a wonderful performer.” Jonathan Harvey, a fellow writer, referred to her as a “gifted and versatile all-rounder.”
In September 2023, Haydn withdrew from the highly anticipated West End revue, “Stephen Sondheim’s Old Friends,” just prior to its opening. She had earlier delivered an unforgettable performance of “Ladies Who Lunch” during the Old Friends gala premiere in May 2022. Producer Cameron Mackintosh expressed his appreciation, stating that Haydn had been an integral part of the close-knit company.
Haydn Gwynne’s remarkable contributions to the West End theatre community deserve special mention. Her roles included Margaret Thatcher in Peter Morgan’s 2013 play, “The Audience,” where she starred alongside Helen Mirren as the Queen. She also captivated audiences as the gilded matriarch Lady Wishfort in the Restoration comedy “The Way of the World” at the Donmar in 2018, and as a no-nonsense judge in “The Great British Bake Off Musical” in 2023. Additionally, she left an indelible mark on Shakespearean productions, playing Queen Elizabeth in “Richard III” opposite Kevin Spacey at London’s Old Vic in 2011, and portraying Volumnia in “Coriolanus” for the RSC in 2017.
She passed away at the age of 66 after battling cancer.
Haydn Gwynne’s versatility as an actress was evident in her ability to bring regal and noble characters to life. She portrayed Camilla as a “soap-opera villainess” in Channel 4’s comedy “The Windsors,” and portrayed Lady Susan Hussey, lady-in-waiting to Imelda Staunton’s Queen, in Netflix’s “The Crown.” Her portrayal of a scheming gallerist in the BBC’s “Sherlock” and her recurring roles in “Peak Practice” and “Merseybeat” further showcased her talent.
Although she received praise for her role as an English lecturer in the 1989 TV mini-series “Nice Work,” Haydn Gwynne’s breakthrough role came with “Drop the Dead Donkey,” where she played Alex Pates, the second-in-command to the sadsack editor George Dent at GlobeLink News. With her impeccable comedic timing, Haydn captivated audiences and earned a BAFTA nomination for Best Light Entertainment Performance. She portrayed the character in the first two series of the popular comedy before bidding farewell to GlobeLink.
Haydn Gwynne was born in West Sussex and discovered her passion for acting through local amdram productions. She studied sociology at the University of Nottingham, where she also pursued student theater at the Edinburgh Fringe. Despite not attending drama school, her exceptional talent shone through, and in 1984, she got her big break when Alan Ayckbourn directed her in Sandy Wilson’s musical play, “His Monkey Wife,” based on John Collier’s novel, in Scarborough. Haydn had two sons with her partner, Jason Phipps.
Today, we remember Haydn Gwynne as a talented actress who graced the stage and screen with her exceptional performances. Her legacy will continue to inspire future generations of actors and leave an indelible mark on the world of entertainment.