Gawn Granger

Gawn Granger

Some sources indicate he was born in Glasgow, Scotland on 12 October 1937. He is the son of Charles Neil Grainger and his wife Elizabeth (née Gall). Educated at Westminster City school in Victoria, London, he later trained for the stage at the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts.

Grainger made his first London appearance as a boy in 1950, when he played the Boy King in Ivor Novello’s King’s Rhapsody at the Palace Theatre.

He began his professional career at the Dundee Rep in 1961, followed by two years at Ipswich, 1962–64. He joined Laurence Olivier‘s National Theatre at the Old Vic company in 1972.

Among his notable television credits are the Apostle Andrew in Son of Man by Dennis Potter (1969); the Earl of Kildare in The Shadow of the Tower (1972); George Stephenson in the Doctor Who serial The Mark of the Rani (1985) and Lesley Flux in Midsomer Murders episode The House in the Woods (2005). He was an occasional panellist on the syndicated, New York-based What’s My Line? series in 1968.

Grainger authored the following plays: Four to One (1976), Vamp Till Ready (1978), Lies in Plastic Smiles (1979) and Paradise Lost (1980).

His first marriage was to the actress Janet Key in 1970. Together they had two children. Their marriage lasted until Key’s death from cancer in July 1992. His second marriage is to American-British actress Zoë Wanamaker, to whom he has been married since November 1994.

Grainger was a close friend of Laurence Olivier and his family, and helped the actor write his second book On Acting (1986).

From February to April 2012 Grainger performed as Mr Balance in The Recruiting Officer, the 1706 late Restoration Comedy by Irish playwright, George Farquhar. It was the highly acclaimed first production for incoming artistic director Josie Rourke at The Donmar Warehouse in London. As a result of the particular interest generated in Grainger’s life over the course of the production, Mark Gatiss, his fellow cast member, instigated a Platform event which took place before the evening performance of The Recruiting Officer on 11 April.

During the discussion, Grainger confirmed some little known facts about his life and told anecdotes about his career over sixty years as both actor and playwright in the UK and US. Joking with Gatiss about some confusion around the date and place of his birth, he commented that he appeared to have been born twice, in 1937 in Glasgow and in 1940 in Northern Ireland. He admitted that the latter had been a twist on a then more romantic notion of theatrical heritage. It was at this point that Grainger also revealed that he learned that his biological father had in fact been his parents’ lodger who later went on to marry his mother. He expressed gratitude to his father for bringing him along as a small boy to theatrical events which he humorously described and which had a positive effect on his imagination and determination to engage with performance. He began writing for the stage prior to his professional acting debut, having his first play performed at the age of twenty-one. Following a distinguished acting career, most particularly at the National Theatre in London, Grainger worked on writing projects in the 1980s whilst his children grew up. He returned to acting in the 1990s at the insistence of Harold Pinter, who, when asked by Grainger, “why should I return to acting?”, replied, “because you owe it to yourself”.

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