Haydn Gwynne
The day that changed my life, Haydn Gwynne: The actress, 58, on the flash of enlightenment that made her finally follow her dream
Walking through New York one day in the mid-1980s I had a moment of complete clarity.

I was in my mid-20s, and although I didnít realise it at the time Iíd travelled to New York to gain distance and perspective. While I was there I realised I wanted to act Ė and that day it hit me like a bolt of lightning.

Iíd been lecturing in English at Rome University for five years after graduating from Nottingham. Iíd done some amateur acting in Sussex, where I grew up, and been in student productions at the Edinburgh Fringe, but Iíd never considered it as a career.

As a child I saw Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in Brighton and thought it looked great fun.

Then at Nottingham I was cast as Fenella in Auberís opera La Muette de Portici and several national papers came to review it. I felt a pull towards acting, but still I suppressed it.

Partly I was unsure what my family would think. My father was a Barnardoís boy and I was worried heíd think I was wasting my talents.

I also felt because I hadnít been to drama school an acting career was impossible, and that if I didnít work abroad after university then I never would, so I went to Italy.

Yet the notion wouldnít go away and when I was offered two jobs simultaneously, I refused both and went to New York on a whim.

I saw some shows there, including the original production of Nine at the 46th Street Theatre, and it was just after that I had that moment of utter calm.

It was a huge relief and my father was very supportive.

I wrote to every theatre company in Britain and finally Alan Ayckbourn offered me a job in His Monkey Wife, a play with songs.

I then made my name in Drop The Dead Donkey, but musicís been a recurring theme in my career ever since.

In 2006 I was nominated for an Olivier Award when I played Mrs Wilkinson in a London production of Billy Elliot that later moved to Broadway.

By coincidence the theatre there was a few yards from the 46th Street Theatre where I saw Nine all those years ago!

By Sarah Chalmers for the Daily Mail
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