Theatre Images

Theatres in Ayrshire ~1800 - 2013

1.  Opera House 3

2    From sw

3.   Opera new

The Opera House, Kilmarnock

1. The Opera House facade on John Dickie Street, viewed the from the south west.

Date 18 February 2010
Photographer: Mike Bailey

2.  The Opera House facade on John Finnie Street, after restoration, viewed from the south west. 

Date:  22 November 2012
Photographer: ©Mike Bailey

3.  The Opera House facade on John Finnie Street, after restoration, viewed from the north west. 

Date:  22 November 2012
Photographer: ©Mike Bailey

Changes to Historic Scotland Listing

The adjacent buildings and the opera house facade were re-categorised by Historic Scotland in 2006 and are now regarded as part of an "A listed" group of buildings that includes the corner site between John Finnie Street and West George Street.

The local authority has approved a planning application for the construction of new offices on the opera house site.  The new building on the site was completed in October, 2012.

For further information on the architecture, please follow this LINK


The Operetta House Opens

Since the opening entertainment on Monday evening, performances have continued nightly in the new Operetta House, John Finnie Street, under the management of Messrs Glover and Francis.   On Tuesday evening 'Guy Mannering' and 'Box and Cox' were repeated before a numerous audience., and on Wednesday and Thursday evenings the stalls, pit and gallery were well filled on the occasion of the production of the favourite comedy-drama, 'The Factory Girls; or all that Glitters is not Gold.'

The heroine of the play was well represented by Miss Pitt; Mr Walmulay as Toby Twinkle was inimitably humorous; and Mr E. Compton's Stephen Plum was a masterly performance, which was deservedly much applauded by the audience. The musical farce of 'The Waterman' followed. Mr Courtenay, as Tom Tug, sang in capital style, and the other characters were ably sustained by Mr LetBer, Mr Greves, Mrs Courts and Miss Gifford. Last night a highly-successful performance was given of Mr Byron's drama, £100,000,' the afterpiece being 'The Goose with the Golden Eggs.'

Glasgow Herald, 27th March 1875

Miscellany and Ephemera

Built in the Italian style, the new operetta house seated 1500. The first leasees were Messrs Glover and Francis, former owners of the Theatre Royal in Dunlop Street (Glasgow) and lessees of the Hope Street Royal Theatre in Glasgow from 1869 until the mid 1870's.  The first show to be performed in the building, on 22nd March, 1975, was 'Guy Mannering' by Sir Walter Scott.

The National Library of Scotland's collection of Scottish Theatre Programmes includes one programme for the Kilmarnock Opera House. This is for a performance of Hamlet in 1876, described as a 'Grand fashionable night for the benefit of Mr Edward Compton.' 

Compton (1865 - 1918), who became an actor/manager and toured with his Compton Comedy Company, must have reached Kilmarnock very early in his theatrical life.   His first professional engagement was in Bristol in 1873 and he did not reach London until 1877.  In 1881 he organized the Compton Comedy company, which for over 30 years played Shakespearean and old English comedies throughout the country and formed a valuable school of training for young actors and actresses.  (Compton was father of Sir Compton Mackenzie, the novellist, Fay Compton, the actress, and great grandfather of Alan Howard, an Associate Artist of the Royal Shakespeare Company.)

Edward Compton in the role of Rover in Wild Oats by John O'Keeffe; first performed in 1791.

It is unlikely that Compton played the lead in Hamlet for he established himself as a comedy actor, achieving considerable success in characters such as Malvolio or Sir Toby Belch.  Reviewing his appearance in the role of Dromio of Syracuse in 'The Comedy of Errors', the critic of the Glasgow Evening Citizen (February 13th, 1883) noted, 'A light-footed, light-hearted knave, now the companion of his master, and now the butt of his master's tongue. This Dromio was one of the most humourous and entertaining of stage figures.'