Our current inhouse exhibition highlights the records of professional actor Meredith Edwards, which is one of the many private collections held here at Denbighshire Archives. This exhibition highlights the actor’s professional career in theatre, radio, film and television, however the collection also documents his later work in Welsh politics, including his campaigns to enrich the quality of life in rural Wales and support Welsh culture.
Born Gwilym Meredith Edwards on June 10th 1917 in Rhosllanerchrugog, Meredith first trod the boards as a professional actor in 1938 and his long and distinguished career encompassed numerous film, television, radio and theatre performances. He became one of the most recognisable and ubiquitous Welsh actors of his generation.
His interest in theatre was sparked by a combination of visits to the Liverpool Playhouse and amateur dramatics at Ruabon Grammer School.
In 1938 Meredith began his professional career by joining the newly created, – but sadly short-lived, – Welsh National Theatre at Plas Newydd in Llangollen. After the outbreak of war in 1939 he found himself touring with the Army Tropical Theatre to the Middle East, Italy and Israel, before returning home to tour Britain with the Pilgrim Players.
After the war he began to pursue his acting career in earnest, including a spell at the Liverpool Playhouse as a member of the repertory company there. Initially he did no more than “walk on” before graduating slowly from small parts to title roles including Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.
After a season with the London Old Vic Company and a stint working with the BBC’s first Welsh repertory company, his ‘big break’ came in 1949 with a role in a feature film called “A Run for your Money”. This marked the beginning of a long and happy association with Ealing Studios. Meredith went on to appear in another 50 films and an extensive number of television dramas.
One of the recurring themes which emerges from his archive is how extraordinary his talent was for such an ordinary man. Some might argue that this was his greatest success of all.
The Meredith Edwards papers are a fascinating collection of records for anyone with an interest in the history of British theatre in the 20th Century.
Photographs with kind permission from Peter Edwards
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