Hilton Edwards

Life
1903-1982 [Hilton Robert Edwards]; b. 2 Feb. 1903, London, son of Thomas George Cecil Edwards and Emily Edwards (born Murphy); ed. Finchley Grammar School, and St Aloysius School, Highgate; joined Doran’s Shakespearean Co. in 1920, and toured Ireland for two years; joined Old Vic.; toured Ireland with his br-in-law Anew McMaster, and was introduced to Micheál MacLiammóir [q.v.] at the Athenaeum, Enniscorthy, Co, Wexford, 1927 - becoming life-partners; fnd. Gate Theatre in 1928 with MacLiammóir (“I don’t care about nationalism, I care about the theater”) - opening with Peer Gynt in Abbey St., 19 Oct 1928; produced more than three hundred plays;the pair opened the Irish-language theatre An Taibhdhearc (Galway) with Mac Liammóir’s version Diarmuid agus Gráinne; Edwards directed Shaw’s Heartbreak House at the Gate, 1971, also taking the role of Captain Shotover;

his film appearances include Return to Glenascaul, From Time to Time, and Hamlet at Elsinore; he appeared in Orson Welles’s prod. of Othello and Bryan Forbes’s The Wrong Box; appt. Head of Drama RTÉ, 1961-63; winner of a Jacobs Award for his TV series Self Portrait, 1962; his successful production of Philadelphia, Here I Come! by Brian Friel [q.v.] for the Dublin Th. Fest., 1964 was revived at the Gate in the following year and transferred to Broadway (NY) where it was nominated for a Tony Award in 1966 as Best Director; produced and played the title role in Conor Cruise O’Brien’s Herod, performed in the Green Room of the Gate, 1973; they settled from the start at Harcourt Terrace. DIB DIH FDA

Filmography: he appeared in several 15 films, including Captain Lightfoot (1955), David and Goliath (1960), Victim (1961) and Half a Sixpence (1967); wrote and directed Orson Welles’s Return to Glennascaul (1951)

Bibliography: Christopher Fitzsimon, The Boys: A Biography of Micheál MacLiammóir and Hilton Edwards (London: Nick Hern [1994]), 320pp., ill.; Anthony Roche, Brian Friel: Theatre and Politics (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan 2011), ix, 235pp. [chapter on Edwards and remarks passim -see extract.]

A Hilton Edwards Gallery
Clockwise: Hilton Edwards by Harry Kernoff; Hilton with Mac Liammoir outside the Gate; Hilton with Orson Welles; Christopher Fitzsimons’s The Boys (1994).
Harry kernoff
Outside the Gate
Hilton and Micheal
Christopher Fitzsimons
with Orson Welles

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Commentary

Gate Theatre production withdrawn”, in Belfast Newsletter (25 May 1955):

Changes in the programmes of the Gate Theatre company at the Grand Opera, House, Belfast, were announced last night.
 Elmer Rice’s Not for Children will be taken off after to-night’s performance. It will be replaced during the remaining three nights of this week by Maura Laverty’s Liffey Lane, with which the company opened its present visit to Belfast.
 The Masquerade, by Pirandello, which was to have been presented next week has also been withdrawn. It will be replaced by Maura Laverty’s Tolka Row, which the company presented when in Belfast last year.
 Arrangements are being made for the “props” for Tolka Row to be brought from Dublin by road.
 Referring to the changes in programmes, Mr. George Lodge, managing director of the Grand Opera House, told the NewsLetter last night that Not for Children had been “very badly received in Belfast”.
 “We have had walks-out galore,” he went on, “and I do not want the public to have to stand for something that they do not want.”
 Mr. Lodge added: “I have no objections to experiments in the presenting of plays, as long as John Citizen wants to go and pay to see them.”

Too early

Speaking on the history of the Gate Theatre at a meeting of the Young Ulster Society in the Union Hotel, Belfast, last night, Mr. Hilton Edwards, Gate Theatre producer, said:-
 “If people walk out to of Not for Children they are going to be bored stiff with Pirandello’s play,” which he described as a very obscure play in difficult prose (translated by Michael MacLiammoir from the Italian).
 Mr. Edwards said that when he founded the Gate he set out to create a theatrical conscience in Dublin. “I do not know to this day whether I was right or not,” he continued.
 “I tried to do it in Belfast this week, but was slain for it. I realise that I am far too early, and that is why I am not putting on the Pirandello play next week.
 “I tried it with Michael MacLiammoir’s play last week, and people were bored by it. I have tried it again this week, and they are even more bored.” he said.

Success in Dublin

Mr. Edwards said that Not for Children had failed in New York. It had never been played in London, but it, had succeeded enormously twice in Dublin. “In the South,” he went on, “we have a well-fed man who wanted a tit-bit, but here you have a hungry man who wants a hunk of beef[.] You must not offer him a caviare sandwich.”
 “Thank God you are hungry,” he declared. “I have made the mistake of inviting you to afternoon tea instead of dinner. That was a mistake on my part. It is nothing against Belfast for not liking the play.”
 Mr. Edwards said he pleaded guilty to a suggestion that he had made a mistake in bringing the Elmer Rice play to such a large threatre [sic]. “But, I am pleading, not to defend myself, but Mr. Rice.”
 What they had always tried to do in the Gate was to experiment and change, Mr. Edwards said.
 “Why should we pay money to see your experiments? you may ask. I do not know. Why should you pay to see people repeating themselves over and over again, like somebody with the hiccoughs,” he added. [End].

—Cutting in papers of Sybil Le Brocquy in posssession of RICORSO Editor.

See also ‘Talking to Hilton Edwards’, in The Irish Times (1 Dec. 1962) [‘Talking to ..’ column] - rep. in Irish Times (1 Dec. 2012), Weekend, p.6. Viz., response to questions, ‘[...] how did you first become involved in the theatre?’, ‘[... was it while you were with this company [Doran Shakespearean Co.][ that you first came to Ireland?’, ‘Why did you leave the Old Vic?’, and ‘How did you come to settle in Ireland?’

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Eleanor Blau, ‘Hilton Edwards [...] Founder of Theater in Dublin. (NY Times, 20 Nov. 1982) - Obituaries:

 Hilton Edwards, the actor and director who founded the Dublin Gate Theater with Micheal MacLiammoir in 1928, died Thursday in a Dublin hospital. He was 79 years old.
 Mr. Edwards, who was born in London, produced and directed more than 300 plays at the Gate, ranging from the works of Aeschylus and Sophocles, Goethe and Ibsen to the comedies of Shaw and Sheridan and new Irish plays, by such authors as W.B. Yeats, Brian Friel and Mr. MacLiammoir.
 As an actor Mr. Edwards played leading parts, including the title roles in Peer Gynt, Cyrano de Bergerac and Macbeth and Sheridan Whiteside in The Man Who Came To Dinner. On Broadway in 1966, Mr. Edwards directed Mr. Friel’s Philadelphia, Here I Come! and The Loves of Cass McGuire.
 He began his career acting with the Charles Doran Shakespeare Company in 1920 in Windsor and then joined the Old Vic in London, playing in all but two of Shakespeare’s plays before leaving the company a few years later. Trained in music, he also sang baritone roles with the Old Vic Opera company. Ireland for a Season
 After touring with various companies in Britain and South Africa, he went to Ireland in 1927 for a season with Anew McMaster’s company and met Mr. McMaster’s brother-in-law, Micheal MacLiammoir. As he told an interviewer once, both men wanted a theater of their own; Mr. MacLiammoir wanted it to be in Ireland and Mr. Edwards did not care. “I don’t care about nationalism, I care about the theater,” he said.
 The two men’s talents were complementary. Mr. MacLiammoir was an actor, designer and writer; Mr. Edwards a director, actor, producer and lighting designer.
In New York in 1948 he played in and directed John Bull’s Other Island’ and directed The Old Lady Says No and Where Stars Walk. In the early 1960’s Mr. Edwards took a two-year leave from the Gate to become drama director of Ireland’s first television station. He appeared in and directed films and also appeared on television in roles including Mr. Micawber in David Copperfield.

—Available at New York Times Archive - online [accessed 07.04.2017]; orig. edition incls. photo-port of Edwards.

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