Born in Nottingham, William Henry Thompson (Billy Merson) commenced his career as part of an acrobatic act before going solo as a comedian and performing his own songs. After taking London by storm in 1910, his career flourished.
By 1912 he was appearing in the new ‘spectacular revues’ at West End theatres. A star of the UK’s silent screen, he can be found in cinema programmes alongside Charlie Chaplin. He was cast in the first production of Rose Marie at Drury Lane in 1925 and subsequently embarked on a career as an ‘actor manager’. In 1926 he starred in Britain’s ‘first sound film’.
The play was conceived with touring in mind. The simple, evocative setting and costumes allow the action to flow seamlessly, incorporating extracts from sixteen of Merson’s comic songs. It recalls the turbulent life of a man who constantly found himself on the ropes but always bounced back. A born entertainer, he was the inspiration for future generations of comedians and his legacy lives on.