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Edward Petherbridge, 2007
3 August 1936 |
West Bowling, Bradford, West Riding of Yorkshire, England
|Occupation||Actor, writer, artist|
Emily Richard (1981-present)Louise Durant Harris (1957-1980; divorced)
Edward Petherbridge (born on 3 August 1936) is an English actor, writer and artist. Among his many roles, he portrayed Lord Peter Wimsey in the 1987 BBC television adaptations of Dorothy L. Sayers's novels. He created the role of Guildenstern in Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. At the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1980, he was a memorable Newman Noggs in the company's adaptation of Dickens's The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby.
Petherbridge was born in West Bowling in Bradford, West Riding of Yorkshire, the younger son of William and Hannah Petherbridge. He attended Grange Grammar School, Bradford, where his favourite subjects were Art and English Literature. The composer Herbert Howells wrote of Petherbridge’s boy soprano rendition, at the Wharfedale Festival, of Schubert’s 'Trout': 'A fine young musician with a fine gift of word delivery.' Petherbridge trained as an actor at Esme Church's Northern Theatre School. At the time of national service in the 1950s, he was a conscientious objector.
He made his professional stage debut at the Ludlow Festival in 1956, playing Gaveston in Marlowe's Edward II. His first London appearance was at the Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park in 1962, playing Demetrius in A Midsummer Night's Dream.
He began his tenure as part of Laurence Olivier’s National Theatre Company in the 1960s, walking on in Olivier’s Othello and later creating the role of Guildenstern in Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.
Petherbridge has been a leading actor in the Royal Shakespeare Company and Royal National Theatre; was a founding member of the Actors' Company in 1972; and with Ian McKellen established the McKellen-Petherbridge Group at the RNT in 1985.
He has been praised for both tragic and comic parts, interpreting a wide range of roles from Feydeau to Euripides. His major roles on stage include Newman Noggs in Nicholas Nickleby; Charlie Marsden in Strange Interlude; Gaev in The Cherry Orchard; the Cardinal in The Duchess of Malfi; Alceste in The Misanthrope; Frank Ford in The Merry Wives of Windsor; Malvolio in Twelfth Night, King Cymbeline in Cymbeline; Dr Dorn in The Seagull; Sir Anthony Blunt in Single Spies; the title role in 'Cyrano de Bergerac'; Krapp in Krapp's Last Tape; Donner in Tom Stoppard's Artist Descending a Staircase; and Tiresias in Sophocles' Antigone.
Petherbridge has performed in stage musicals, including Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Woman in White, Kurt Weill's Lost in the Stars, The Fantasticks by Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones, Coco by André Previn and Alan Jay Lerner, and most recently a musical version of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest. He has devised a number of innovative one-man shows on a variety of subjects. For the Actors' Company he directed Euripides' Bacchae in an imaginative double bill with a pantomime. He also created and directed a stage version of R.D. Laing's Knots.
On television Petherbridge was a definitive Lord Peter Wimsey in the Dorothy L. Sayers Mysteries. Other television appearances include Journey's End, Maigret, A Christmas Carol, The Brief, Midsomer Murders, Land Girls and Doctors. His film roles include Richard St Ives in Mike Newell's An Awfully Big Adventure and Aesculapius in Pope Joan, directed by Sonke Wortmann.
Awards and honours
Petherbridge is a winner of the Olivier and London Theatre Critics' Awards (for his role as Charlie Marsden in Strange Interlude), and has twice been nominated for a Tony Award (for Nicholas Nickleby and Strange Interlude). He has also been a recipient of the Sony Award for Best Actor in a Radio Drama.
In 1989, Petherbridge was awarded an Honorary D.Litt. by the University of Bradford.
Petherbridge is married to the actress Emily Richard, with whom he has appeared several times on stage. They have two children, Dora (b. 1983) and Arthur (b. 1986). He has a son, David (b. 1965), by his first marriage to the New Zealand actress and director Louise Petherbridge (née Harris).
Petherbridge and his wife live in West Hampstead in North London. With his friend Kathleen Riley he is writing a history of West Hampstead, NW6 and All That.
His book, Slim Chances and Unscheduled Appearances was published in March 2011 and launched with a sell-out Platform at the National Theatre. At the same time he held his first art exhibition at Burgh House in Hampstead.
Petherbridge maintains a weekly blog, which often features his poetry, artwork and short films.
Pethebridge is the author of Pillar Talk (or Backcloth and Ashes), a one-man show about Saint Simeon Stylites, published in 2005.
In 2011, Petherbridge published an autobiographical anthology of essays, poems and artwork under the title Slim Chances and Unscheduled Appearances. The book details his career in the theatre over half a century, from his first acting lesson, watching Norman Evans in Humpty Dumpty at the Bradford Alhambra, and his early years in 'tatty' rep, through his frustrations and triumphs at the Old Vic under the leadership of Laurence Olivier, to his role in the formation of the democratic Actors' Company and his membership of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Along the way he recounts several 'unscheduled' appearances, in Peter Brook's Oedipus, for instance, and in Wormwood Scrubs as a young conscientious objector.
The book includes a foreword by Sir Ian McKellen.
Novelist A.L. Kennedy said of Slim Chances: 'Edward Petherbridge has produced a charming and insightful narrative, full of humour, theatrical lore and honesty. A must for anyone interested in 20th century theatre.'
A CD version of Slim Chances, 'with additions and afterthoughts', will be released later this year.
Petherbridge has also contributed to The Continuum Companion to Twentieth-Century Theatre.