Under the Orange Tree
3 November 2019

Dame Penelope Wilton will take to the Orange Tree stage in conversation with OT Artistic Director Paul Miller in our series of discussions with our most distinguished actors talking about people they’ve worked with, admired and learned from. Under the Orange Tree is a celebration of British theatre’s history and its especially collaborative nature, and is an unrivalled opportunity to see great artists talk up-close in the OT’s unique in-the-round space. It follows sold out Under the Orange Tree talks with Dame Judi Dench and Dame Maggie Smith in 2017 and with Sir Derek Jacobi and the late Dame Jane Whitfield in 2018.

The Under the Orange Tree series helps the OT - a registered charity - achieve the £450,000 it needs to fundraise every year in addition to ticket sales. Proceeds from the event will support all aspects of the Theatre's activities: from producing re-discovered plays, to developing new work, to introducing thousands of primary school children to Shakespeare for the first time.

Tickets start from £48 and will increase with demand. 

Dame Penelope Wilton is one of Britain`s leading actresses. She trained at Drama Centre London, and she made her professional theatrical debut in King Lear as Cordelia in 1969 at the Nottingham Playhouse and the NT Old Vic Theatre.

In 1971, she made her Broadway debut as Araminta Hampton in The Philanthropist and her West End debut as Mary in West of Suez, and in 1974 she played Ruth in the first London production of Alan Ayckbourn’s The Norman Conquests at Greenwich Theatre  

Throughout her prolific career she has earned six Best Actress Olivier Award Nominations for Man and Superman, The Secret Rapture, The Deep Blue Sea, John Gabriel Borkman and The Chalk Garden, taking home the award for playing Irmgard Litten in Taken at Midnight. She was nominated for the Best Actress Evening Standard Award for playing Regina Giddens in The Little Foxes and won the same award for her role as Miss Madrigal in The Chalk Garden sharing this honour with co-star Margaret Tyzack.

Dame Penelope’s theatre roles have included Agnes in A Delicate Balance at the Almeida, Getrude in Hamlet at Wyndham’s Theatre, Mary Tyrone in A Long Day’s Journey Into Night at the Young Vic, Irina Arkadina in The Seagull at the Barbican, Barbara Undershaft in Major Barbara and Emma in Betrayal at the NT Lyttelton among others.

Her career has taken her to the silver screen, as well. She has starred in over twenty-four films including: Joseph Andrews, The French Lieutenants Woman, Cry Freedom, The Secret Rapture, Carrington, Iris, Calendar Girls, Shaun of the Dead, Match Point, Pride & Prejudice, The History Boys, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Belle, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, BFG, Zoo, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and Eternal Beauty.

Her varied television career began in 1970 where she appeared in two episodes of Thirty-Minute Theatre. In 1972, she portrayed Vivie Warren in Mrs Warren’s Profession. She has been seen in many series and television movies and became a household name in 1984 when she appeared in Ever Decreasing Circles. Other series include: The Pearcross Girls, The Song of Songs, Play for Today, C.A.T.S. Eyes, Screaming, The Borrowers, The Return of the Borrowers, Rob and Rose, Five Days and Doctor Who.

From 2010 to 2015, Penelope portrayed Isobel Crawley on all six seasons of the much beloved ITV British period drama, Downton Abbey. The feature film of Downton Abbey will be released on 13 September 2019.

Her most recent television appearance was as Anne in Netflix series Afterlife, and she has just finished filming an upcoming UK drama, Summerland.

Penelope was made an Officer of the British Empire in 2004 and a Dame Commander of the British Empire in 2016.