Actress Haydn Gwynne dies aged 66

Haydn Gwynne had a remarkable career in both television and stage. She received nominations for prestigious awards like the Olivier and Tony Awards for her outstanding performances in various productions, including Billy Elliot the Musical, City of Angels, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, and The Threepenny Opera. Her talent and versatility were widely recognized in the entertainment industry.

Many esteemed figures in the performing arts community have expressed their heartfelt condolences. J

ack Thorne, the acclaimed playwright, who worked with Gwynne on the play “When Winston Went to War With the Wireless” at the Donmar Warehouse in London, described her as the kindest, loveliest soul and praised her incredible performances. Another notable tribute came from Jonathan Harvey, who referred to her as a gifted and versatile all-rounder.

We are deeply saddened to share the news of the passing of Haydn Gwynne, the talented and respected actor. Gwynne, best known for her role as the sardonic assistant editor Alex Pates in Channel 4’s Drop the Dead Donkey, lost her battle with cancer at the age of 66.

She passed away in the hospital surrounded by her loved ones, including her beloved sons, close family, and friends.

Haydn Gwynne, left, with Tamsin Greig in Women On the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown at the Playhouse theatre in London in 2015.

In September 2023, Gwynne had to withdraw from the West End revue Stephen Sondheim’s Old Friends due to her illness. Despite this setback, she had already left an unforgettable impression with her performance in the gala premiere of the show. Producer Cameron Mackintosh acknowledged her significant contributions to this close-knit company.

Haydn Gwynne attending the Women's Prize for Fiction awards ceremony in 2021

Gwynne’s extraordinary talent extended to the West End, where she took on prominent roles such as Margaret Thatcher in Peter Morgan’s play “The Audience” alongside Helen Mirren, Lady Wishfort in the Restoration comedy “The Way of the World” at the Donmar Warehouse, and a no-nonsense judge in “The Great British Bake Off Musical.”

She also showcased her Shakespearean prowess as Queen Elizabeth in “Richard III” and Volumnia in “Coriolanus.” With her regal portrayals, she captivated audiences in shows like Channel 4’s comedy “The Windsors” and Netflix’s “The Crown.”

It was her role as Alex Pates in “Drop the Dead Donkey” that put Haydn Gwynne in the spotlight. She received a Bafta nomination for this character, the second in command to the bumbling editor George Dent at GlobeLink News. The popular comedy series brought her recognition and a loyal fan base.

Haydn Gwynne was born in West Sussex and discovered her passion for acting through local amateur productions. She studied sociology at the University of Nottingham, where she also honed her skills in student theater at the Edinburgh fringe.

After completing her education, she lectured in English at the University of Rome. Gwynne didn’t attend drama school but made a breakthrough in 1984 when she worked with renowned director Alan Ayckbourn in Sandy Wilson’s musical play “His Monkey Wife.”

Let’s remember Haydn Gwynne for her remarkable contributions to the world of performing arts. Her legacy will live on through her impressive body of work, and she will be deeply missed. Our thoughts go out to her family and friends during this difficult time.