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Haydn Gwynne - Photo: Nile Scott Shots/Nile Hawver

Haydn Gwynne, Billy Elliot the Musical’s Original Mrs. Wilkinson, Dies at 66

October 20th, 2023 | By Hayley Levitt

Haydn Gwynne, celebrated stage actress of both Broadway and the West End, died on October 20 morning after a brief battle with cancer, according to a statement by producer Cameron Mackintosh. She was 66.

Gwynne was most recently slated to perform in the West End Stephen Sondheim revue, Old Friends, but withdrew from the production in September. In the statement from producer Mackintosh, he noted Gwynne’s “sensational success” at the revue’s 2022 gala premiere, “stopping the show singing ‘The Ladies Who Lunch.'”

Gwynne was a regular figure on the West End stage, earning four Olivier Award nominations for her work in City of Angels, Billy Elliot the Musical, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, and The Threepenny Opera. The actress reprised her performance as Mrs. Wilkinson in Billy Elliot the Musical on Broadway, garnering a Tony nomination and Drama Desk Award. Her other notable stage credits include Gina Gionfriddo’s Becky Shaw at the Almeida Theatre, Richard III at The Old Vic (performing alongside Kevin Spacey), and the 2013 West End premiere of Peter Morgan’s The Audience, performing the role of Margaret Thatcher opposite Helen Mirren’s Queen Elizabeth II. Gwynne made her final appearance on the West End in The Great British Bake Off Musical, embodying the popular competition series’ judge Prue Leith in the form of the character Pam Lee.

On screen, Gwynne is recognized for her regal performances as Camilla in The Windsors (a Channel Four program inspired by the British royal family) and Lady Susan Hussey in season five of The Crown—as well as her role as Alex Pates on the newsroom satire Drop the Dead Donkey, for which she received a 1992 BAFTA nomination.

Gwynne is survived by her partner Jason Phipps and their two sons. Mackintosh’s public statement announcing the actress’s death closed with the following: “The company of Old Friends is dedicating tonight’s performance to her memory and extraordinary career. As Haydn raised a glass to the audience and said, ‘I would like to propose a toast…,’ everyone in the Gielgud Theatre tonight would like to propose a toast to dear Haydn. God bless her.”


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