Mervyn Thompson was born in Kaitangata in 1935 and spent most of his early life on the West Coast. He left school at fifteen and worked at various jobs, including five years down a coalmine.
In 1960 he entered the University of Canterbury and graduated with an MA in 1964. In 1965 he became a university lecturer. Mervyn was a co-founder of the Court Theatre, Christchurch and from 1971-74 was co-director of that theatre. In 1975-76 he was artistic director of Downstage, Wellington and during this time he wrote his first plays.
Mervyn was appointed senior lecturer in Drama at Auckland University (1977-91) and during this time continued to work as a playwright and director. A controversial figure in both theatre and academia, he was passionately committed to NZ drama. In both 1980 and 1982 he was Director of the Playmarket national Playwrights Workshops and in 1981-82 was both an advisor and a director at the Mercury Theatre. During his last years he resided in Christchurch, where he died from cancer at age 56.