Pocket Britain
Britain > Scotland > Edinburgh > Edinburgh's Theatres

The cultural hotspots of Scotland's capital

Listen to this article


Edinburgh Festival Theatre
Edinburgh Playhouse
Traverse Theatre
Edinburgh is famous for its performance art, particularly during the month of August when its annual festival features over 20,000 events. However, during the other months of the year the city's theatres don't just lock their doors and let the dust settle. Instead, they carry on hosting shows.
This is even true of the Edinburgh Festival Theatre, which is obviously named after the big summer event. Though it has only been using its current title since 1994, it was already an established theatre. In fact, it has been putting on performances since 1830, making it the city's oldest venue. The current incarnation has plenty of modern touches, like the stylish glass entrance. However, it keeps its traditional spirit alive with a programme that includes plenty of ballet, opera and classical music. As its stage is the biggest in Scotland, the Festival Theatre is particularly suited to large-scale performances. There are more than 200 square metres of space, giving a lot of room for some inventive shows.
Another venue with high production values is the Edinburgh Playhouse. This is the major Scottish host of London's West End musicals. In truth, the building wasn't originally designed for live acts at all. Instead, it was a huge cinema, modelled after the famous Roxy Theatre in New York. Nowadays it presents all sorts of music and comedy shows to audiences of over 3000. This is the biggest capacity of any theatre in the UK.
While the Playhouse focuses on glitzy modern performances, the Royal Lyceum prefers to keep things traditional. The building itself is a prime example of Victorian architecture, and the plays on show are often at least as old. The first actor to grace the boards was a lady called Ellen Terry, whose statue was later erected in the foyer. Although this sculpture was destroyed during the war, the ghostly image of its head can apparently still be seen, rolling around beneath the stalls, particularly after a few whiskys.
Another building with a more than a century of history is the King's Theatre. It was set up in 1906 as a direct rival to the Royal Lyceum. Its programme includes a similar line-up of classic dramas, as well as pantomime, comedy and song. The King's is one of the more luxurious venues in town, with detailed plasterwork and attractive mahogany.
By contrast, the Traverse Theatre is considerably more modern. Its building is relatively new and the ink has barely dried on the scripts of most of its plays. The Traverse is dedicated to contemporary work by brand new writers, leading to a newspaper calling it "one of the most important theatres in Britain".
The city's venues each have their own characteristics, their own atmosphere and their own specialities. However, during the Festival all of this goes out of the window, as they host just about anything. This is when Edinburgh's cultural scene really comes alive. The imaginations of the writers, actors and directors take over the entire capital, and anywhere from a train station to a public toilet can become a theatre.
Visitor Information
Edinburgh Festival Theatre 13-29 Nicolson Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9FT. Tel: 0131 529 6000
Edinburgh Playhouse 18-22 Greenside Place, Edinburgh, EH1 3AA. Tel: 0131 524 3333
Royal Lyceum Theatre Grindlay Street, Edinburgh EH3 9AX. Tel: 0131 248 4848
King's Theatre 2 Leven Street, Edinburgh, EH3 9LQ. Tel: 0131 529 6000
Traverse Theatre 10 Cambridge Street, Edinburgh EH1 2ED. Tel: 0131 228 1404

Back ~ Top ~ Home ~ Index

Pocket Britain is optimised for use on a smartphone or tablet with internet access. All content is subject to copyright. All reasonable methods have been used to ensure information supplied is accurate at the time of publication. However, it is advisable to check information before relying on it. Privacy Policy