Actor from the F R Benson Company

Actor from the F R Benson Company

In 1875, Charles Edward Flower, a local brewer, launched an international campaign to build a theatre in the town of Shakespeare's birth. He donated a two-acre site on the banks of the Avon for the purpose.

With an initial season of eight days, the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre opened in 1879 with a performance of Much Ado About Nothing. From 1888 actor-manager F R Benson presented an annual Shakespeare Festival, which, by 1910, had extended into a month long summer season. Frank Benson had acted at the Lyceum under Irving and was able to attract star visitors like Ellen Terry and Herbert Beerbohm Tree to guest with his company, who otherwise spent the year touring.

This young actor may well have been selected as much for his sporting ability as his acting experience. Benson emphasised physical fitness as an important part of actor training, and auditions for the company apparently often involved finding out where the hopeful applicant might fit in to the Benson Hockey Eleven, or whether he was a batsman or bowler.