Edward Compton, 1854 - 1918
Although Compton was London-based for much of his career, he made early appearances in Scotland and was well known in Ireland, particularly in the comic Shakespearean roles.
Compton, 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, aged 26, 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. He is a descendant of Charles
Murray Actor/Manager, 1754-1821
In 1876 Compton, aged little more than 20, appeared in a performance of Hamlet at the newly opened Opera House in Kilmarnock. While it is reasonable to assume that Compton played one of the minor roles, an oil painting of Compton in the role of Hamlet in 1876 is in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum. Hence, it is possible that he was, in fact, playing Hamlet, a possibility re-inforced by the added fact that it was his benefit performance at the Kilmarnock Theatre.
Compton went on to 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.'
Links with Ayrshire
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.'