The first known reference to a performance in Exeter dates from 1348 when the Archdeacon and the Dean of Exeter stopped the "Order of Brothelingham" from "holding processions and enacting scenes in the streets". Visits of mummers and minstrels after this time were made and the Mayor was well entertained. By the late 16th century, theatre was well established in London with the Globe and other establishments putting on the plays of Shakespeare and Marlowe. Exeter had no specific playhouse, but Dr Faustus was performed by the Lord Strange's Company in 1593 at a local city inn. Apparently, the company were so convincing that they summoned the devil himself, followed by a hurried evacuation of the premises.
The Puritans closed the London playhouses in 1643, and many wandering groups of players stopped touring - theatre was not revived until the early 18th century. It was in 1721 that a room on the first floor of the Seven Stars Inn on Okehampton Street, next to the bridge was opened as a regular theatre venue.
In 1725 Brice's Weekly published
"Advert, of Punch's Theatre at the 7 Stars St. Thos. Plays by artificial actors also legerdemain & a tumbling girl, 10 years old."
The venture was successful for on 15 November 1728, John Gay's Beggars Opera was performed there, just months after the first performance in London.
Andrew Brice, owner and editor of The Exeter Postmaster was a keen supporter of the early theatre in Exeter. He also wrote prologues to plays which he often delivered himself, on the stage of the Seven Stars Inn.
It was in 1735 that Exeter's first purpose built theatre was built in Waterbeer Street, and the thespians vacated the Seven Stars.
The Seven Stars Inn in Okehampton Street was the first theatre space in Exeter.
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