The hill that ran down from the Mid Rhondda Athletic Grounds to Dunraven Street in Tonypandy was known locally as the 'Empire Hill' because at the bottom stood The Empire 'Theatre of Varieties'. It was true to its title. I remember my grandfather, a miner who worked in Cambrian Colliery before becoming a barber, taking me there to see one of the many visiting magicians who performed wondrous acts of magic on that stage. Just one of the diverse acts that entertained the community, many in ways that today would be regarded as politically unacceptable. Take Geo the Wonderful Cycling Ape for example. Here is how the Rhondda Leader described the night's entertainment which also included on the bill the risque farce 'The Collar Stud'.
Not by Sir David Attenborough I would suggest.
Next up is Miss Maud Warburton featuring in . . . "a piece of more than usual interest, well constructed and interesting from start to finish, and having a strong moral lesson running throughout, will be staged at the Tonypandy Empire next week by (the company of Messrs. J. A. Campbell and Frank Liston.) "The Sin of Her Childhood."
Staying with the Western theme I couldn't see Clint Eastwood playing the lead in the this production . . .
. . . "that picturesque and exciting Mexican drama, entitled "The Pride of the Prairie" Since its production at the Elephant and Castle Theatre, London, the piece has proved itself to be one of the most popular plays of its kind. A charming love story is written around the title role, "Clattering Kate," a baby found on the Sierra Slopes (who 17 years afterwards finds herself the idol of the camp and the Pride of the Prairie "), and Dick Dandy," a young English cowboy. Startling situations abound, chiefly caused by the unscrupulous dealings of Carlos Durango, a Spanish- American half-breed, an Irishman, Pat O'Donovan. and Ohing Ching, a Chinese." No racial stereotypes there then!
This next offering, 'The Dollar Princess' was apparently the favourite of kings, queens and heads of state. Whether that is a valid recommendation is open to question.
I might be skating on thin ice recalling, the management of the Empire Theatre's clumsy and slightly racist revue of the dramatisation of Henry Seton Merriman's novel "With Edged Tools" . Merriman's intention was to expose the brutality of the slave trade. One of his novels, 'The Sowers' which describes the hopeless misery of the Russian peasant was banned in that country. The management appear to have missed the point.
Opera was always popular given the rich culture of music and song that existed in valleys communities, none more so than the Rhondda.
The Empire Theatre has long since been demolished and replaced. Iceland currently occupies the place where it once stood as a bastion of live entertainment, an echo of a bygone age.
The Mid Rhondda Athletic Field has, so far, survived almost intact although is now under consideration as a site for housing development. There are enough housing developments taking place in the area and a distinct shortage of green spaces. If you believe the Mid Rhondda Athletic Field should be preserved and maintained for the local community please sign our petition to register your support. Thank you.
|The 'Mid' is left of centre.|