An archivist who diligently recorded theatrical life in Salisbury since starting his role in 1946 has penned a book revealing the history of the theatre as it played out in this city. 

Arthur Millie’s book Twice Upon a Salisbury Stage reveals the placement of the original theatre, the actors who performed there and a very important person who made much of it happen.

The desire to write the book was formed in lockdown as Arthur found himself at home with time on his hands. The book covers the period from 1945 to the year 2000.  

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Arthur joked: “I had to stop there, or the book would just be too big.”

Salisbury’s theatrical origins may not be known to many. The location was originally a small Methodist chapel, in Chapel Place which was sold off and became a cinema, then, a garrison theatre, and afterwards, the Salisbury Experiment. A plaque marks the location and the frontage remained.

Salisbury Journal: Arthur Millie's new book Twice Upon A Salisbury StageArthur Millie's new book Twice Upon A Salisbury Stage (Image: Arthur Millie)

Arthur said: “Many actors learned their trade there including Leonard Rossiter, Christopher Biggins, Timothy West and Prunella Scales. Acts used to be there for a season – a year or more. Actors might work backstage, or have small or major parts. Back then, it was a play a week, and then, became a play each fortnight.”

Eventually, a new theatre was needed so a huge fundraising effort commenced in 1976 where the community worked together to fund the building.

The Playhouse officially opened in November 1976.

Arthur and partner Jane have archived every single production since the 1940s, including press releases, programmes, and photos and many are included in the book.  

The launch is at Rocketship Bookshop on Fisherton Street on Saturday, December 3 between 12 pm-1 pm.