James Welch

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James Welch (1865–1917) was a British comedian.

Also known as Jimmy Welch.


Born on November 6, 1865 in Liverpool, England, . After a relatively low key beginning as a comedian, Welch made his breakthrough when he happened on a rehearsal of the Independent Theatre's original production of G.B. Shaw's Widowers' Houses, directed by Grein, and offered himself as an actor. His portrayal of "Lickcheese" apparently set off his career as an actor. Other early roles included The Dove-Cot (Bisson and Leclercq/Brookfield) and The Man in the Street (Parker) in 1898 and "Dr. William Dawson" in the London production of Arthur Conan Doyle's play Halves un 1899.

He really established a national reputation with such popular plays as The New Clown, in which he played the original "Lord Cyril Garston" in 1902 and When Knights were Bold (Marlowe), playing the original "Sir Guy de Vere" for the opening production in the Theatre Royal, Nottingham, on 17 September, 1906 and many times thereafter. He in fact held the rights of the latter play till his death in 1917.

His film work includes The Eleventh Commandment (1913)[1], The New Clown (1916)[2]], and When Knights were Bold (as "Sir Charles de Vere", 1916)[3].

Welch died on April 10, 1917 in London, England.

Contribution to SA theatre, film, media and/or performance

Welch greatly impressed the Cape Town critic D.C. Boonzaier, who referred to him as an "incomparable comedian" and a lovable and sympathetic actor of both comedy and pathos whose performances were never "over-accentuated, forced or conventional". (See Bosman, 1980: p. 412.)

1903: The James Welch Company made their debut in South Africa at the Opera House, Cape Town, under the management of Sass and Nelson, on 4 January, 1903, with a performance of The New Clown (Paull). This 1903 season also included The Man in the Street (Parker) and probably Cousin Kate (Howard) and My Arful Valet (Mortimer).

1904: Welch returned to Cape Town at the beginning of 1904 for another short season of plays at the Opera House, Cape Town, the repertoire including repeats of The New Clown and The Man in the Street, as well as Cousin Kate (Howard) and My Arful Valet (Mortimer).






"Theatrical Gossip" in Sketch: A Journal of Art and Actuality (Volume 23, August 24, 1898)[4]

James Woodfield. 1984. English Theatre in Transition, 1881-1914, Rowman & Littlefield: p.47[5]

D.C. Boonzaier, 1923. "My playgoing days – 30 years in the history of the Cape Town stage", in SA Review, 9 March and 24 August 1932. (Reprinted in Bosman 1980: pp. 374-439.)

F.C.L. Bosman. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1916. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp. 412-3, 417-8 Go to the ESAT Bibliography

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