You are here: Archive Home > Trial by Jury > Compton Benefit
The Gilbert and Sullivan Archive   Title
Review from The Times
Friday, March 2, 1877

The performance, or rather the series of performances, given yesterday afternoon in Drury-lane Theatre for the benefit of Mr. Compton was most successful. No pains had been spared to command the success which every one desired. Hardly a name of note upon our stage was absent from the programme, and not a name was so absent for which, we believe, a very good excuse could not have been given.

The programme was long – indeed, very long; but at that it would be most unjust to cavil, seeing that its length must be attributed to the generous impulse of the profession of which Mr. Compton has long been so distinguished an ornament. And, moreover, so good was the management that hardly a moment of time was wasted – indeed, what waste of time there was could certainly not be imputed to those on whom devolved the arrangement of the affair, which was throughout admirable. The house was crowded – more so, perhaps, than “Old Drury” ever was before, or will be again not improbably for a long while to come. Lastly, there were at least two items in the performance which, for themselves alone, well deserved such an audience as witnessed them – the first act of Money, acted as possibly few now living have ever seen it acted before, and the appearance of Mr. Jefferson in the well-known farce of Lend me Five Shillings. To see this last alone was well worth sitting through five hours very much less interesting than the hours passed yesterday afternoon in Drury-lane.

The performance commenced with the Council Scene from Othello, in which Mr. Creswick was the Othello, Mr. Chippendale, Brabantio; Mr. Mead, the Duke; Mr. Ryder, Iago; and Miss Cavendish, Desdemona. A recital by Miss Heath of “The Charge of the Light Brigade” followed.

The first act of Money, which was next on the list was noticeable, among many other things, for the first appearance on the London stage of Mr. Edward Compton, son of the gentleman in whose honour – for a “benefit” such as this is as much an honour as a benefit –  these performances were given. Young Mr. Compton, who appeared as Alfred Evelyn, was most warmly received, and bore himself in an exceptionally trying situation in a manner to argue well for his future career. To speak of the rest of the performers we cannot, we think, do better than give the cast list in full:–

Lord Glossmore Mr. Henry Neville.
Sir John Vesey Mr. Hare.
Sir Frederick Blount Mr. Kendal.
Graves Mr. Benjamin Webster.
Stout Mr. David James
Sharp Mr. William Farren.
Servants Mr. Bancroft and Mr. Collette.
Lady Franklin. Mrs. Bancroft.
Georgina Vesey Miss Ellen Terry.
Clara Douglas. Mrs. Kendal.

After a recitation by Mr. Irving of the “Uncle,” a very sombre piece of verse, came Maddison Morton’s farce Lend Me Five Shillings, in which Mr. Jefferson appeared as Mr. Golightly, a part first represented by Mr. Buckstone. A very considerable number of those who in this country have laughed and wept in turns over Mr. Jefferson’s wonderful Rip van Winkle have, we suspect, a kind of idea that this admirable actor has never appeared in any other character. Even of those who are better informed the majority have perhaps acquired their information only by hearsay. For the benefit of both we trust that when next Mr. Jefferson accepts an engagement on our stage, an event let us hope not very far in the future, he may be induced to give us such a specimen of his powers as we had the pleasure of seeing yesterday. His performance of Mr. Golightly was, we have no hesitation in saying, in every respect perfect. Not a look, not a tone, not a gesture, could have been altered save for the worse. It was the acting of farce to be sure, but none the less acting of the very highest and most finished order. He was well supported by Mr. Howe, Mr. Thorne, and Miss M. Oliver, and the quadrille in the country ball-room, on which the curtain rose, was a bright and animated picture.

A scene from Macklin’s Man of the World, the well-known scene in which Sir Pertinax Macsycophant instructs Egerton in the art of rising in the world, was given, we need scarcely say excellently well, by Mr. Phelps and Mr. Hermann Vezin, though the latter had but little more to do than to bear himself well in the clothes of a forgotten fashion, a far harder task than might be supposed, but of which Mr. Vezin is more capable than most.

The Critic followed – there can be no “benefit” it would seem without what we are now required to regard as Sheridan’s play. We could wish that the necessity was not so vital, for, in truth, this modern version of the Critic, even when Mr. Charles Matthews is Puff, seems to us very stupid, and not unfrequently a very vulgar performance. It is perhaps the contrast of Mr. Matthew’s presence with that of the other performers, as generally shown to us, which impresses us with this fact. He, indeed, is Puff – a modern Puff, to be sure, as custom seems to have ordained; but what the other characters to which we are treated may be we should be sorry to decide. Under the conditions of yesterday’s performance it would be ungracious to speak more explicitly, and it is with much regret we have to say, as we feel bound to say, even as much as we do; but we are very sure that, in other circumstances, there were more than one of those engaged in the “rehearsal” yesterday who would have learned in pretty plain language the opinion entertained by the audience of his performance. Mr. Clayton was Sneer, and Mr. Byron Dangle, and these, as only the last act was given, had hardly to do more than appear on the stage. Of the actors’ “rehearsing,” Mr. J. Clarke, as Earl of Leicester, Mr. Hill as the Beef-eater, and Mrs. Vezin and Mrs. Mellon, as the nieces, are to be noted as representing a most marked and agreeable contrast to the rest of the company. Mr. Clarke, who was capitally “got up,” gave a very good imitation of burlesque tragedy, and the two ladies we have mentioned showed with what very slight materials a genuine actor can work. There was real comedy in their acting, albeit they were on the stage but a minute or two. The “humour” of some of the performers was of so excessively exuberant a nature that, in order to clear the theatre in time for the regular performance in the evening, it was found necessary to curtail this portion of the entertainment, much to the satisfaction of a great part of the audience, and not altogether, we fancy, to the dissatisfaction of Mr. Matthews, whom we trust to see in better circumstances when next we have the pleasure of seeing him in the character of Puff.

The last piece on the programme was that most amusing little operetta the Trial by Jury. In this the two authors, Mr. Arthur Sullivan and Mr. Gilbert, took part; the former as the leader of an excellent orchestra, which, indeed, he had been leading throughout the afternoon, and the latter seated as the Associate beneath the Judge’s bench. The judge was Mr. Honey; the counsel for the plaintiff, Mr. George Fox; the defendant, Mr. W. H. Cummings; the Usher of the Court, Mr. Arthur Cecil; the plaintiff, Madame Pauline Rita. There was a capital jury, 24 in number, and a most charming complement of bridesmaids, who had evidently profited well by careful rehearsals, and were led in the most happy and agreeable manner by Miss Fanny Josephs.

In the course of the afternoon the result of this most estimable and deserved movement, which, it should be added, was not confined to London, was announced, and we are glad to say it is most thoroughly satisfactory. No “benefit” has ever, we suppose, been so successful in its material results, and no one has, perhaps, ever more thoroughly deserved that such should be the case than Mr. Compton.

Archive Home | Trial by Jury

   Page modified 16 August, 2011 Copyright © 2010 The Gilbert and Sullivan Archive All Rights Reserved.