Source: Hugh Walpole, extract from ‘Epikhodov’, in Winifred Stephens (ed.), The Soul of Russia (London: Macmillan, 1916), pp. 38-39
Text: Beside my quarters in Petrograd is a tiny cinema theatre. Because we hang over the still waters of a side canal, where trade is sleepy, the proprietor of the cinema has to go out of his way to attract the great world. In the vestibule of his theatre there plays every night a ghastly discordant band, his windows are hung with flaming posters of cinematographic horrors, and in the intervals between the pictures he has music-hall turns — the two dwarfs, the gentleman who sings society songs, the fat lady and her thin husband — all this for a penny or twopence. The little room of the entertainment is stuffy and smelly; about one is the noise of the cracking of sunflower seeds. Once and again the audience embraces the audience with loud, clapping kisses. During the musical-hall turns the door is open and you can see into the blue sunlight of the white night, the cobbled street, the green toy-like trees, the gleaming waters of the canal upon which lie the faintly coloured barges.
Comments: Hugh Walpole (1884-1941) was a prolific British novelist, best known for Rogue Herries and its follow-up novels. He spent much of the First World War in Russia, working for for the Red Cross and then as head of the Anglo-Russian Propaganda Bureau, based in Petrograd. This essay comes from a collection on art and society in Russia, produced in aid of Russian refugees, and deals with Russian drama (Epikhodov is a character in Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard). Walpole also describes the mixture of cinema and variety in his 1919 novel The Secret City (qv).
Links: Copy on Internet Archive