A Voice to be Listened to
This popular actress loves almost everything about Italy and enjoys reading her sons bedtime stories.
Haydn Gwynne is a popular actress whose work spans theatre, radio and television.
Born in Sussex, she grew up in a large family. At school, she enjoyed sports and music.
After university, Haydn lived in Italy for five years, teaching English at Rome University. In her mid-20s she realised she wanted to act and returned to England.
Her first job was in a play directed by Alan Ayckbourn in Scarborough. Since then, she has done extensive theatre work, notably as Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Olivia in Twelfth Night, Lady Macbeth, plus leading roles in Peer Gynt for the RSC, and Memory of Water and City of Angels in the West End.
She made her television debut during the late 1980’s in the BBC drama series Nice Work. Since then, she has had starring roles in the cult comedy series Drop The Dead Donkey and in Peak Practice.
She played Superintendent Blake in the popular series Merseybeat and gave a chilling performance in the BBC drama The Secret.
Guest appearances include roles in Lovejoy, Poirot, Dangerfield, Midsomer Murders and, more recently, in Dalziel and Pascoe.
She does voice-over work on television, radio plays and book serialisations. She is also the narrator of the crime novels of Lisa Scottoline for Macmillan Audio Books.
Haydn is currently starring as Mrs Wilkinson, the dance teacher in Billy Elliot - The musical that opens this week at the Victoria Palace Theatre.
Haydn lives in London with her partner Jason, a Jungian psychotherapist. They have two sons - Orlando, aged seven, and Harrison, four.
‘Food and drink are a huge part of my life. I love to eat well, though not necessarily expensively, with family and friends. I am one of life’s guests rather than one of life’s hosts I am afraid. My fantasy meal would be eaten in an Italian farmhouse surrounded by olive trees, which I used to do when I lived there.
One of the wonderful things about being in London is that there is so much live entertainment.
I love the theatre but I to ballet less often because it can be expensive and I do like to have a good seat. A well-produced ballet can have me crying in the aisles, it so moving.
I like to hear live music in small venues and there are plenty of those in London.
Before I had a family, I was happy to travel on my own, I went to the USA, Mexico and Ireland. San Francisco is a favourite place, so is Tobago in the West Indies.
There is something very liberating about travelling alone without a lot of planning. Now, holidays are more of a family thing, which is lovely too. I live in hope that when the children are older, I shall once again take up my backpack and shorts and set off - with my wrinkly knees - to be adventurous.
A year or so ago, I went to India with the charity Sightsavers International. It helps prevent blindness and restore sight in developing countries. Apparently, 90% of the blind people in the world live in those third world countries, which is bad news. The good news is that 80% of those cases can be prevented.
Sightsavers works with organisations in Africa and India. I visited two big hospitals and saw the huge programmes that they have up and running - and an incredible conveyor belt system of cataract surgery. For me it was humbling, but also inspiring.
Although I would say my favourite country is Italy, some things there drive me mad. I love the food, the people, the beauty of the scenery, which is so varied, the climate, the spontaneity.
The down side of that is when you are trying to pin someone down about when they will deliver something or do some work for you, or even just filling in a form, it can drive you crazy.
When I lived in Italy, I developed a love of skiing. Late on a Friday night I would leave Rome and drive to my favourite mountain village where there would be heavy snow on the pine-trees and the promise of fresh, virgin snow in the morning.
I had fantasies about giving up the day job and becoming a ski-instructor. I am very glad I didn’t as I think it would have been a very hard life. I want my boys to learn to ski - if we can afford to take us all!
As well as skiing, I used to other active sports like sailing and parachuting but these days I don’t enjoy that any more. Since I have had the children, I’ve been more worried about the risks.
I love singing and reading to my children at bedtime. They tuck themselves into bed, with me between them, one head under each arm, and I read to them, doing all the voices - I am completely uninhibited.
The other night Orlando said to me: “You do good voices, Mum.” No critic has ever written anything that has made me more chuffed.
I also sing to them at bedtime - they like folksongs and the Irish songs my dad used to sing to me. They love Danny Boy, which was my favourite as a child. I think it’s the best time of the whole day.’