I am a member of the Society for Theatre Research, and have particular interest and expertise on the history of the Manchester Theatres. Records indicate that the first theatre in the town (it was not a city at the time) was built on the corner of Marsden Street and Brown Street in 1753. As a 'non-patent' theatre, it did not prosper, and was closed in1775 in the face of the opening of the first Theatre Royal, i.e. with royal patents, in Spring Gardens, only a few hundred yards away.
Manchester saw a very early performance of Henry Irving in a play called The Spy at the third Theatre Royal on Peter Street.. Irving went on to become a celebrated actor and the first ever to be knighted.
Miss Annie Horniman chose Manchester in which to establish her renowned repertory company - the first in England - at the Gaiety Theatre, Peter Street, in 1907. Actors, Dame Sybil Thorndyke, Sir Lewis Casson and Basil Dean, and playwrights Stanley Houghton, and Harold Brighouse, authors of Hindle Wakes and Hobson's Choice respectively, were products of the company.
The city can also boast the Athenæum Dramatic Society which claims to be the first amateur dramatic society in the Country. Founded in 1847, it still survives, although based in the suburbs now.
The Library Theatre was established soon after the second World War and in 1953 it became the first civic theatre in the U.K The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, reputed to be the first, was not opened until 1958. Today, in addition, Manchester has the Royal Exchange Theatre. Opened in 1976, The Royal Exchange has become one of the leading regional theatres in the Country