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FOOTLIGHT NOTES

images of theatre and other popular entertainment
1850s-1920s

no. 665

updated
Saturday, 12 June 2010

remembering Patrick O'Connor (1949-2010)

Edward Compton


a postcard photograph of Edward Compton (1854-1918), English actor manager,
published in London by J. Beagles & Co Ltd about 1918

(photo: unknown, early 20th Century)

Mr. Edward Compton as David Garrick at the Prince's Theatre, Manchester, Friday, 5 May 1905
'The idealisation of Garrick happily accomplished in the play David Garrick is not a little amusing. Certainly those of us who have learned to know our Davy as he appears in Boswell would never recognise that famous little figure in this superfine stage rhetorician. The Garrick who was the Doctor's pet was small and vivacious, with a face worn from the ''wear and tear'' of acting. He was in now small degree miserly. We remember how when Peg Woffington used to make tea for him he would grumble that it was extravagantly strong - ''Why is it as red as blood.'' The Garrick of the play is nothing if not polite, and yet Dr. Johnson pronounced of the real David that ''he can't represent all modes of life but that of the easy, fine-bred gentleman'' the actor's humble origin clinging always to him. Nevertheless the Garrick of the footlights is a pleasing enough personage in his finery, both bodily and mental. Under any other name the play would act as well. The piece is thin enough, and it contains one or two pure improbabilities. Of such is the whole of alderman Gresham's plan, and the fact that Tom Tallyhaut is allowed by Gresham to reveal this precious plot before his niece after Garrick's drunkenness these things we half forget in the easy flow of the tale. Mr. Compton has now played as Davy 1,200 times, yet he successfully evades the temptation of mechanical fluency. He is at home in the task of championing the actor's art through the mouth of the mythical Garrick. His is a genial interpretation. The performance last night was satisfying as a whole, although we thought the guests in the second act rather needlessly grotesque. The occasion was Mr. Compton's ''benefit.'' He has been playing in legitimate comedy for more than twenty years. In a little speech across the footlights he spoke of himself as a champion of comedy of the older and more wholesome school. ''There are many of those,'' he said ''who are evidently glad to get away for a brief spell from the eternal feminine, in the shape of the woman with a past and the musical maid with a future from the inane farcical comedy and the highly seasoned drama.'''
(The Manchester Guardian, Manchester, Saturday, 6 May 1905, p. 9f)

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