Oldham Historical Research Group

'Oldham Stories'

     'Oldham Stories'
by Mary Dickinson

 'Visits to the Theatre'

When I was about eleven years old my friends and I used to go to the theatre quite often. It didn't cost very much and in my time I have seen and heard some of the best comedians and singers who ever lived.

In Oldham we had about seven cinemas and two very good theatres. The Denville Company played at the Theatre Royal, and if I had enough money I would go. It cost 3d. for a good seat. I saw "Maria Martin in the Red Bam" and all kind of thrillers there. At the Coliseum I saw some of the most brilliant acrobats and wire-walkers. I saw all the old stars like Vesta Tilly, George Roby, Gertie Gertino, Florrie Ford, Nellie Wallace, Bransby Williams and Randolf Sutton. You name them I have seen them, and the standards were much higher than today's. There was one very good act called "The Splinters". They put on a two hour show of sketches and dancing. It was very unusual because they were all men, not one single woman. They wore the most beautiful clothes and worked very hard.

At the entrance to the theatre there was a lady holding a big basket of sweets and fruit. If you hadn't got enough money she would let you have something "on tick" till you got paid. I never did but I know some people did. We used to go to the Coliseum early. It was always nice and warm in there and there was always something to look at, if it was only the curtains. They were covered with words and we used to play a game with them called "First and Last Letter". We also used to look up at the ceiling where there were about eight pictures from Shakespeare's plays. As we looked up at them we would talk about the characters, there was always a clever one among us who knew the stories. We only ever did one Shakespeare play at school. It was called "The Merchant of Venice" and none of us liked it. When I hear of children today studying Shakespeare for their exams I always remember where I got my knowledge of the great man.

These days the television seems to have taken over from the theatre and I enjoy it too, but I have some wonderful memories of my visits to the theatre.

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