1947 marked the birth of the Compton Players.
The origins of the Compton Players are something of a mystery. It is known that they evolved out of a group from Compton Women’s Institute who rehearsed and performed plays under the direction of Mr H J Johns, a local schoolmaster. The earliest reference we’ve found is from the Newbury Weekly News on 27th February 1947, page 7, which said, in a report on Compton WI:
“…During the social half hour a dress rehearsal performance of a one act play Snob Court Hotel was given by the Drama Section under the direction of Mr H J Johns. Those taking part were Mrs M Brown, Mrs Dolan, Mrs E Heath, Mrs Learly and Mrs Maskell. The play is to be produced at the Group meeting in the near future.”
The play was called At “The Snob Court” Hotel, or Look Before You Leap – A Brief Episode of Hotel Life written by M E Forwood in 1929.
No record seems to have survived of the production of The Man from Toronto but there can be little doubt that it must have taken place, probably produced by H J Johns. For forty years it has been at the top of the list of previous productions on the back of the Compton Players programmes. On the basis of this accepted fact the Golden Jubilee was celebrated in 1997.
The first reference to the play is its appearance in a list of previous productions on the programme for Third Time Lucky in 1954. There are no dates given but the list is certainly not in chronological order. In 1957 on the programme for Flare Path the first dated list of previous productions puts The Man from Toronto at the head of the list with the date 1947.
It is possible that The Man from Toronto was another WI production and because it involved others besides WI members, the group decided to call themselves The Compton Players.
The Compton Players were undoubtedly formed toward the end of 1947 as their debut under that name was reported by The Newbury Weekly News in May 1948.
The Man from Toronto is a comedy in three acts by Douglas Murray. It was first produced in 1918 and went out of print 1953-54. A copy is available from Samuel French (Editorial Department) with permission to photocopy.