PLAYBILL EXCLUSIVE: Who's Who? Edwin Drood Troupers Share Bios of Their Alter-Ego Show Folk

By Playbill Staff
20 Dec 2012

Jim Norton as William Cartwright
Photo by Kevin Thomas Garcia

William Cartwright (Jim Norton)
William Cartwright was born in Battersea, London in 1830. His father was an army sergeant, and his mother worked as a barmaid, and sometimes performed at the old Battersea Town Hall. His father was posted to India, and slowly faded from their lives. His mother returned to the music hall, with young William in tow. They appeared on stage together singing Victorian ballads. William continued to work in the music halls, and as a boy actor in touring companies. He finally made it back to London, playing small parts in Henry Irving's company. Upon his mother's death, it was revealed that she had been putting aside monies from his father's army pension. This enabled William to provide his mother with a good South London sendoff, and it also meant he could start his own company of actors. William was inspired by seeing Charles Dickens perform his one-man performances, and he based his portrayal of the chairman on Dickens, who was described by one critic as "the buttonholer, the friend, the intimate, your self" with his little company in dire financial straits his adaptation of Edwin Drood is a last ditch attempt to revive his fortunes, and his career. Dickens once said, "There is no class of society whom so many people regard with affection — as actors." Dickens died at 6 PM on June 9th 1870.