John Wilkinson as Robin Oakapple in Ruddigore

John Wilkinson (1881-85, 1887-89, 1892)

[Born York 1861, died 20 Feb 1910]

John Edward Wilkinson toured with Mr. D'Oyly Carte's "B" Company from August 1881 to December 1882, appearing in the curtain raisers In the Sulks (as Mr. Liverby, 1881) and Quite an Adventure (in an undetermined role:either Mr. Wallaby or Mr. Fraser, 1882). He also filled in briefly as Sir Joseph Porter (September 1881) and Ralph Rackstraw (October 1881) in H.M.S. Pinafore, and, it appears, Major General Stanley in The Pirates of Penzance (February 1882).

In December 1882 Wilkinson was transferred and promoted to the newly formed Mr. D'Oyly Carte's No. 2 "Iolanthe" Company as Lord Chancellor in the first provincial production of Iolanthe. He transferred to Carte's No. 1 "Iolanthe" Company in the same role in March 1884, and then from January-December 1885 appeared with Carte's "A" Company in Princess Ida, The Sorcerer, and (from June forward) H.M.S. Pinafore as King Gama, John Wellington Wells, and Sir Joseph.

Wilkinson was then away from the D'Oyly Carte until June 1886, when he toured Europe with Carte's Continental Company until January 1887, appearing as the Learned Judge in Trial by Jury and filling in for David Fisher as Ko-Ko in The Mikado when the latter was ill. With Carte's "D" Company in January and parts of February 1887 he played Ko-Ko for British provincial audiences. In March 1887 he joined Company "C" to play Robin Oakapple in the first provincial production of Ruddigore.

He left Company "C" in July 1887 and reported to the Savoy as George Grossmith's understudy. His duties at the Savoy would be limited--he appeared in the title role of Ben-Zo-Leen in Mrs. Jarramie's Genie, the companion piece that shared the Savoy bill with the 1887-88 revivals of H.M.S. Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance, and The Mikado, and he did get to go on briefly for Grossmith as Ko-Ko in The Mikado in August 1888.

Wilkinson was the Genie again when Mrs. Jarramie's Genie was restored to the bill as curtain raiser for The Yeomen of the Guard in October 1888, but gave up the part in August 1889 when Grossmith left the Savoy and Wilkinson took over as Jack Point in Yeomen. He played Point for the balance of the run but then left the D'Oyly Carte in November 1889.

In 1890 he toured South America as comic baritone with Edwin Cleary's English Comic Opera Company, appearing in Buenas Aires in many roles including Sir Joseph, General Stanley in The Pirates of Penzance, Ko-Ko, and, on at least one occasion, the Learned Judge in Trial by Jury. The Company also appeared briefly in Montevideo. He was accompanied on the tour by his wife, mezzo-soprano Laura Elliston, herself a once and future D'Oyly Carter, and their six-year old daughter Poppie, who made what may well have been her theatrical debut as Tom Tucker in Pinafore. Poppie, too, would later appear as an adult with the D'Oyly Carte. The Wilkinsons returned to South America with Cleary for a more extensive June 1891-May 1892 tour, this one involving a shipwreck off the coast of Chile.

Upon his return from that adventure, Wilkinson rejoined the D'Oyly Carte organization, touring as Bedford Rowe in The Vicar of Bray with D'Oyly Carte Opera Company "D" from July to December 1892. He then left the D'Oyly Carte for the last time to take the part of Michonnet in Trooper Clairette at the Opera Comique. Trooper Clairette ran for 38 performances (December 22, 1892-January 25, 1893). It was Wilkinson's last role on the London Stage. He did, however, continue to perform in the provinces, including an 1898 tour of The Celestials, a Chinese play with music by F. Osmond Carr, that opened in Blackpool in August of that year.

Page modified January 29, 2007 © 2001-07 David Stone