Edward Petherbridge

Edward Petherbridge (born 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' novels, and 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.

Edward Petherbridge
Portrait of Edward Petherbridge, 2007.jpg
Edward Petherbridge, 2007
Born (1936-08-03) 3 August 1936 (age 86)
West Bowling, Bradford, West Riding of Yorkshire, England
Occupation(s)Actor, writer, artist
Years active1956–present
(m. 1957; div. 1980)

(m. 1981)


Petherbridge was born in West Bowling, Bradford, the younger son of William and Hannah Petherbridge. He attended Newby Primary school in West Bowling, Bradford, before later attending Grange Grammar School in Little Horton, Bradford, where his favourite subjects were Art and English Literature.[1] 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.[2] 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 as Demetrius in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Petherbridge 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. He 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 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 Samuel Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape; Donner in Tom Stoppard's Artist Descending a Staircase; and Tiresias in Sophocles' Antigone.[citation needed]

Petherbridge has performed in stage musicals, including The Woman in White, Lost in the Stars, The Fantasticks, Coco, and, most recently, a musical version of The Importance of Being Earnest.

On television, he has made appearances in Journey's End, Man at the Top (1972), The Ash Tree (1975), Casting the Runes (1979), Maigret, No Strings, Dead of Night, The Brief, Midsomer Murders (a role he took on after Ian Richardson died a few days before production was to begin), The Land Girls and Doctors. His film roles include Richard St Ives in Mike Newell's An Awfully Big Adventure (1995), Lord Peter Wimsey, Dr. Pritchard in Gulliver's Travels (1996), Foster in A Christmas Carol (1999), Dom Vladimir in The Statement (2003), and Aesculapius in Pope Joan (2009), directed by Sonke Wortmann.[3]

Awards and honoursEdit

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.

Personal lifeEdit

Petherbridge is married to the actress Emily Richard, with whom he has appeared several times on stage. Petherbridge and Richard live in West Hampstead in North London. The couple have two children, Dora (b. 1983) and Arthur (b. 1986).[4] He has a son, David (b. 1965), by his first marriage to the New Zealand actress and director Louise Petherbridge (née Harris).[5]

In 2007, Petherbridge suffered two strokes while preparing to star in a production of King Lear. He later fictionalised the experience in the play My Perfect Mind, co-written with Paul Hunter.[6]

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. With his friend Kathleen Riley, he is writing a history of West Hampstead, NW6 and All That.


Petherbridge is the author of Pillar Talk (or Backcloth and Ashes), a one-man show about Saint Simeon Stylites, published in 2005. He has also contributed to The Continuum Companion to Twentieth-Century Theatre.[7]

In 2011, Petherbridge published an autobiographical anthology of essays, poems and artwork under the title Slim Chances and Unscheduled Appearances, which includes a foreword by Sir Ian McKellen.[8][9]


  1. ^ White, Clive (5 June 2009). "Trail to the past may switch to online". Bradford Telegraph and Argus. Archived from the original on 14 June 2021. Retrieved 17 June 2021.
  2. ^ Midweek, BBC Radio 4, 25 May 2011.
  3. ^ Edward Petherbridge at IMDb
  4. ^ "Culture shock". The Guardian. 17 September 2005. Archived from the original on 11 February 2021. Retrieved 11 February 2021.
  5. ^ "Petherbridge, Louise Durant, 1931-". Petherbridge, Louise Durant, 1931- | Items | National Library of New Zealand | National Library of New Zealand. Retrieved 21 June 2021.
  6. ^ Youngs, Ian Youngs (7 March 2013). "Actor Edward Petherbridge puts stroke story on stage". BBC News. Archived from the original on 30 June 2018. Retrieved 11 February 2021.
  7. ^ "The Continuum Companion to Twentieth Century Theatre". Bloomsbury. Retrieved 20 September 2014.
  8. ^ Fisher, Philip. "Slim Chances and Unscheduled Appearances". The British Theatre Guide. Retrieved 20 September 2014.
  9. ^ "Edward Petherbridge". West End Lane Books. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 20 September 2014.

External linksEdit