Calcutta, along with Bombay, Madras and Delhi, was among the major urban centres of British colonial rule in India. The dominance of Calcutta sprang largely from its historical location as the commercial heart of the East India Company, following the British victory at the Battle of Plassey and Robert Clive's acquisition of the management of Bengal revenues in 1765. Many Europeans made immense fortunes from the trade privileges and land revenues exacted via a hierarchical system of landlords or zamindars in the profitable districts of Bihar and Bengal. Calcutta was to continue as the seat of British imperial rule of India, home of governor-generals and viceroys, from 1773 until 1911 when, following the coronation of the kingemperor George V, the capital was transferred to Delhi.
Unsurprisingly, the colonialists brought with them their own cultural traditions and practices, at such time as relative peace, and unquestionable prosperity, allowed these luxuries. The first theatre, called simply the Calcutta Theatre, was built during the period of Warren Hastings's governor-generalship in 1779, and ran for more than three decades until an accumulation of debts forced its closure. In every way the numerous theatres that followed over the next 100 years were modelled on the then contemporary practices of English, specifically London, theatres. In spite, therefore, of the oppressive heat and humidity, audiences, conventionally attired, would gather in indoor venues, architecturally designed in congruence with the Drury Lane and Covent Garden theatres of the day, even if not quite as ambitiously scaled and ornamented.
The dramatic fare on offer was, similarly, drawn from that available to play-goers at home. Visiting actors from the mother country were naturally extremely popular.