Oscar Asche


John Oscar Asche was born in Australia and first appeared on stage in 1893; his resonant voice and his dignified, formal bearing are often mentioned in the reviews of his performances. For eight years he was a member of Sir Frank Benson’s company with whom he played at the summer Stratford festivals. He then he joined the company of Sir Beerbohm Tree in 1902. After leaving Tree’s company he began to manage his own theatre group, eventually touring Australia and South Africa. He published his autobiography, Oscar Asche: His Life, in 1929 and died in 1936. He was married to Lily Brayton, with whom he often played Shakespeare’s plays in repertory.

Asche and Brayton inscribed their names in the record book in 1916. Oscar Asche wrote a play entitled Chu-Chin-Chow in which he played the lead, Abu Hasan. The play broke all records when it ran for 2,238 performances. Brayton took the part of Zahrat-al-Kulub and performed it almost two thousand times during the run. Asche almost became a wealthy man because of this single play. I say “almost,” for he tells us in his autobiography that “I must have drawn well over £200,000 in royalties from Chu. And everyone who was connected with Chu made a fortune. Some kept it. I didn’t” (163).

Between 1932 and 1936 Asche appeared in seven films. His best-known part is probably his performance in Scrooge (1935) as “Christmas Present.” The film, with Seymour Hicks as Scrooge, was directed by Henry Edwards.