Neil Kenyon (1873-1946),
Scottish music hall comedian,
at the Hippodrome, Brighton,
week beginning Monday, 18 January 1909
This real photograph postcard, no. 1282E, was issued about 1907 by the Rotary Photographic Co Ltd of London in its Rotary Photographic Series.
'Scottish humour is undergoing quite a boom just now at the variety halls. In that very fact some may detect the suggestion of a very subtle form of humour. One of the most famous of these Scottish comedians, Neil Kenyon, is at the Hippodrome this week. As an artist and as humourist he is a gem of the first water. He appears this week in two characters - one as the village postman, one as the village simpleton - and while he convulses the audience with his quaint, dry wit, he wins their admiration to an even great degree by the perfection of his character acting. Partly it is what he says, and partly it is how he says it. What he says is always good, and much of it has quite a novel flavour. He is fertile, for instance, with this form of quip: ''Ay, when I was at school they ca'ed me the chiropodist; because I was at the foot.'' but even when his jokes are of a more familiar type, the way in which he utters them, in his canny Scottish style, with a slow, benevolent smile spreading over his amiable features, gives them all the effect of something new and immensely stimulating. His smile is irresistible. A joke of his one night this week sent a lady not far from the stage into a sudden peal of laughter. He turned on her that quaint smile of his, so beaming, so full of the quaint Scottish pawkiness, so curiously confidential, that the lady's peal of laughter developed into a series of shrieks, and she and her friends fairly rolled on their seats. The infection spread until the whole house was rocking with them in sympathy. Yet the old postman was only smiling, and it was not an exaggerated or forced smile either. It was just a Scottish smile. On the other hand, Neil Kenyon has his moments of sincere, appealing pathos, as when he tells of the lassie who, to spare her blind father anguish, reads to him the imaginary letters assigning a fictitious prosperity to his son abroad. The postman knows the real fact, that the son is having a bad time. He pulls out the letter for the lassie, from the place where the son is staying. He holds it up, and his face blanches. It is black-edged. ''Oh, the puir thing,'' he murmurs, ''how'll I tak it to her.'' He goes out shaking his bowed head. It is a wonderful touch of pathos.'
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© John Culme, 2009