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Obituary: Midsomer Murders star pays tribute to her playwright mum Olwen Wymark

Olwen Wymark. Picture: Bryan Heseltine Olwen Wymark. Picture: Bryan Heseltine

Saturday, August 3, 2013
12:00 PM

Midsomer Murders actress Jane Wymark has paid tribute to her playwright mother who has died at the age of 81.

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Writer and mother-of-four Olwen Wymark, the widow of renowned Shakespearean actor Patrick Wymark, lived in Hampstead and Highgate for more than 50 years and it was while living there that she forged her prestigious career as an acclaimed playwright.

She wrote dozens of plays for BBC radio and the stage, which daughter Jane said were partly inspired by Hampstead and the Heath.

She passed away peacefully on June 14.

Born in California in the US, Olwen came to London in 1951 to take some classes at University College London, where she met husband-to-be Patrick Cheeseman, who took her grandfather’s surname as his own when he became a professional actor.

They married in 1953 and lived in Stratford-upon-Avon, where she supported Patrick as he starred in many Royal Shakespeare Company plays.

The couple moved to Parliament Hill in 1960, where they raised their four children – Jane, Tristram, Dominic and Rowan. After Patrick’s sudden death in 1970, aged 44, Olwen suddenly had to earn a living and made her playwriting hobby a profession.

Jane remembered: “It wasn’t easy for her. She had to recreate herself as a career person having been a stay-at-home mother.”

She went on to write plays centred around complex human relationships and was one of the first female playwrights to tackle mental health issues with Find Me in 1980.

She moved to a flat in Highgate West Hill, Highgate, in 1982 and although none of her works were set in Hampstead or Highgate, Jane believes she took inspiration from living there.

“Her work was influenced by the place she loved” she explained. “It’s just a feeling but there is definitely an air of the Heath in some of her plays. She loved living in the area.”

As well as writing, Olwen taught at various colleges and served on the Arts Council drama panel for some years. Jane added: “She had a busy, successful life and was very much loved by everyone who knew her. She was a good mother and as a teacher, a lot of people benefited from meeting her.”

Olwen is survived by her four children Jane; actor Tristram; Dominic, who works in Hollywood; Rowan, a dramaturg and by her grandchildren.

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