THE ECLIPSE OF THE THEATRECategory: Theatre
Among the general amenities of the modern town the chief are the free library, the swimming bath, the ice-rink, the dance- hall, the museum and the “art gallery” — a term which is given liberal construction. These are as regular features of all towns of any size as cinemas are of towns both large and small. The theatre and music- hall are now found only in the larger towns. A hundred years ago quite small towns had a theatre of some sort, and the larger towns had two and sometimes three.
Theatrical usage spoke of Number One towns — Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham etc.— Number Two towns, and even Number Three. But today only the Number One towns are on the theatrical map. A few of the enlightened smaller towns support a local repertory company, or an amateur society, but in most of them what was the theatre or music-hall has become in accord with the taste of both the townsman and the countryman, a cinema. The amateur orchestra and the choral society, which once were such a feature of small-town life, survive in a few places, but generally they have shared the fate of the theatre.
The eclipse of the theatre was demonstrated quite lately. When at the end of 1940, most of,the London theatres were closed, one or two adveijturous companies made spasmodic visit to other than Number One towns — small towns near the camps or near munition centres. They found that they had in their audiences adult towns-people — people of thirty and thirty-five — who were for the first time in their lives seeing a play with living actors. Some of them turned so reactionary that they even thought it an improvement on photographed actors.
(From The English Townsman 4s He Was and As He Is by T. Burke)