Nigel Playfair

Sir Nigel Ross Playfair[1] (1 July 1874 – 19 August 1934) was the English actor-manager of the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, London, in the 1920s.


Playfair was born in St George Hanover Square, London[2] to William Smoult Playfair and Emily Kitson,[3] and educated at Harrow and University College, Oxford. He starred in the Mermaid Society's well-received 1904 London production of The Way of the World by William Congreve and went on to produce a modern run twenty years later at The Lyric with Edith Evans as Millamant (1924). He produced Shakespeare's As You Like It for the opening night of the Shakespeare Festival at Stratford-upon-Avon in April 1919, and brought it back to the Lyric in April 1920. Critics derided an unconventional set and costumes by Claud Lovat Fraser, but in what Shakespearean scholar Sylvan Barnet calls the play's "first modern production", their spare design was later acknowledged as ground-breaking.

Playfair has been credited with a major influence on the BBC's 1923 wireless Shakespeares, the first produced by that organisation. He continued to work as a BBC producer for some years and is credited with having commissioned Richard Hughes to write the world's first radio play, Danger, broadcast on 15 January 1924. Playfair also appeared in a few motion picture films during the last years of his life.

He was knighted in 1928. The National Portrait Gallery holds a pen and ink caricature portrait of Sir Nigel Playfair by Harry Furniss.

He is buried in the Eastern Cemetery in St Andrews in Fife close to several other members of the Playfair family. His wife May Playfair (1875-1948) lies with him.


Fortnum & Mason still markets Sir Nigel's Vintage Marmalade and there is a Nigel Playfair Avenue in Hammersmith, near Ravenscourt Park tube station. His house in Kensington, Thurloe Lodge, re-designed by him in the 1920s and referred to as "the most stylish house in London", was due for total demolition in 2013 following the death of the previous owner Mark Birley, to make way for a more modern 'villa'.[4]



His play When Crummles Played, drawn from characters from Charles Dickens's Nicholas Nickleby and featuring those characters performing Lillo's George Barnwell, an 18th-century moral melodrama, opened at the Garrick Theatre on 1 October 1928.

Selected filmography

Selected stage roles


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