Players of the 19th and 20th Century Theatre

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.' 

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Compton
Edward Compton in 'The Reformed Rake' 1908.   magnify

R. H. (Robert Henry) Wyndham (1813-1894)

R. H. (Robert Henry) Wyndham (1813-1894), founder of  the Howard and Wyndham theatre management company (1851-1894) was a skilful actor and manager from Salisbury; a man of unusual enterprise and vision.

He began his career as a member of Macready’s company at Covent Garden and first came to Scotland to play at the Adelphi Theatre in Glasgow. William Murray (1790-1852), long serving manager of the Theatre Royal in Edinburgh, saw him perform there and brought him to join his company in Edinburgh in 1846.  Wyndham became Murray’s last assistant manager and, on Murray’s retirement, Wyndham took the lease of the Adelphi Theatre in 1851.

During his early career Wyndham had outshone Charles Kean with the splendour of his productions of Shakespeare’s Henry VIII and A Midsummer Night's Dream.  In 1857 he engaged Henry Irving, straight from a debut in Sunderland, to be a juvenile lead. The future first Knight of the British theatre was given four hundred and twenty eight roles in Wyndham's Edinburgh's stock company.

His opening production at the restored Adelphi theatre was The School for Scandal in which he played Charles Surface. His wife was Lady Teazle and, keeping family ties to the fore of the company, his brother-in-law, Mr. Saker, played Moses.  There were frequent clashes of repertory between the Adelphi and the Theatre Royal: Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Gulliver’s Travels, Rob Roy and The Corsican Brothers could often be seen in both theatres in the same week.

Links with Ayrshire

No links with Ayrshire have been identified.

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Wyndham
Portrait of R. H. Wyndham. [Copyright expired on original image.]    magnify

J B Howard

Edward Compton and the Scottish Press

Mr Edward Compton is always certain of a flattering welcome from the admirers of high class comedy in Paisley; but probably on no previous visit did he meet with so hearty a reception as was accorded him last night.

Further Press Appreciation.

'We have little hesitation in saying that what Mr. Irving has accomplished for tragedy, Mr. Edward Compton, young as he is, bids fair to do for high comedy.

Theatrical Fires

Wyndham could claim to have had four Scottish theatres burned under him, a record for a theatre manager in Scotland.


Howard and Wyndham

During 1869, Wyndham senior took leave of theatrical affairs and leased the theatre to J.B. Howard for a summer season.


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