Before the Kinloch Players

Travelling theatre in Scotland in the 20th century.

Apart from established theatres in Scottish towns and cities there was a healthy theatrical scene maintained by touring fit-ups, ranging from the more elaborate companies with a single production playing the town halls, to the smaller fit-ups travelling with a repertoire of plays in village halls. There were also the ‘penny geggies’ and ‘portables’. Technically, ‘fit-ups’ fitted-up their scenery in public halls and other venues, while ‘portables’ were travelling theatres, similar to fairground booths. The actual performances in both were the same in style and content.

In 1935 Henry Parker and his wife, stage name Mary Kinloch, joined The West Highland Players, a fit-up travelling in Central Scotland. They appeared in  most of the standard fit-up repertoire of the period, including melodramas such as East Lynne, Maria Marten, Burke and Hare, Bonnie Prince Charlie and Rob Roy. Other plays, from the mainstream of the early 20th century such as Mr.Wu and Love on the Dole were included. Musicals were also in the repertoire, freely adapted from earlier West End successes such as Oh! The Rajah, The Desert Song and from an unknown source, a piece billed as Springtime in Holland.

The company was run on a commonwealth basis; every one was on a share of the takings after the expenses had been taken out. At the outbreak of war in  September 1939, keeping a company together became difficult and the West Highland Players finally closed in Birnam, near Perth, in 1940.

For some time Henry Parker and Mary Kinloch had intended to start their own company and been gathering costumes and scenery. They opened in Grandtully on Tayside in September 1941.