From the Archives December 1st, 1962


The theatre producer Hilton Edwards, then head of drama at Telefís Éireann, answers ‘Irish Times’ questions

Mr. Edwards, how did you first become involved in the theatre?

– Well at first I was studying music. I was a singer, though my main interest was in orchestral music. I am a Londoner. I had no near relative in the theatre, but I had a remote relative who was an actress, Elizabeth Arkall, and she suggested one day that I should go along to the Old Vic for an audition. I went with all the nerve and temerity of youth, and I think I recited something from Cyrano de Bergerac. The Old Vic producer, Robert Atkins, told me I had not got sufficient experience, and suggested I came back to see him in a year, but in the meantime that I should go and see Charles Dolan [who] happened to have a part that suited me. I was lucky, if you can call it luck getting into this job at all. He engaged me for the sum of £3 a week in the year 1921, and the first part I had was the Player King in Hamlet with the Charles Doran Shakespearean Company.

– And it was while you were with this company that you first came to Ireland?

– Yes, at the end of the tour we came to Belfast for a fortnight, Dublin for a fortnight and Cork for a week. It was just before Christmas, 1921. Years later, shortly before the Cork Opera House burned down, I rescued a playbill of that tour which I still have. I remember at the end of the tour I asked for 5s[hillings] rise, and Mr. Doran was very nice but he only offered me 2s. 6d, and so I went back to the Old Vic.

– Why did you leave the Old Vic?

– I left it after five years because I felt I had been in the classical theatre long enough and I should widen my experience. Also I wanted to get more money. I ended up getting £14 a week in the Old Vic. The last play I was in before I came back to Ireland was a play called “The Dybbuck.”

– How did you come to settle in Ireland?

– In the cast was an actor who had produced for Anew McMaster, and when “The Dybbuck” finished he asked if I knew any actor who would come to Ireland . . . to play parts like Iago and the King in Hamlet, and Macduff – with Anew McMaster. I had no intention of leaving London and I rang up all my friends but I couldn’t get them to go. It was then suggested to me that I should go myself. In this company I met Anew McMaster’s brother-in-law Micheal MacLiammoir: he was acting and painting very beautiful scenery for McMaster. At the end of the tour in Cobh I got pneumonia, I think now from rowing on the bay at night. They had to leave me behind in Cobh; MacLiammoir nursed me and was very good to me.

Read the whole original at