Our Favourite Edinburgh Theatres
Written by Gareth Thomas Thursday, 03 December 2015 11:02
Given Edinburgh becomes the arts capital of the world each year during the festival season, we are blessed with many performance spaces, both formal and informal. During festival time, schools, churches and even the street can turn in impromptu theatres, but what about the rest of the year? Let's have a look at the best theatres Edinburgh has to offer. Here are some – but by no means all – of our favourites.
The Royal Lyceum Theatre
This is a grand theatrical space that is in the heart of the city and which plays an important part in the cultural life of Edinburgh year round. It has a 658 seat auditorium and dates back to the late nineteenth century. It was last modernised in 1996, but the theatre retains much of its original design and charm. The Royal Lyceum stands next to Usher Hall, one of the country's largest concert buildings, so it’s really easy to find.
Situated just down the road from the Royal Lyceum Theatre, the Traverse Theatre is a much more modern looking building. It was founded in the 1960s to foster more experimental works and has been a mainstay of the festival ever since. This is the place to head for new plays or new adaptations of existing ones. As well as traditional theatre, you can take in dance productions, physical theatre, puppetry and live music from time to time. We like the main theatre here, but the studio is well worth checking out, too, largely because of its intimate feel and staging configurations which can be altered to suit the needs of the production.
This is a small theatre that is actually owned by the local university. Interestingly, the theatre is entirely run by the student population, not the university authorities (and is widely-regarded as the oldest student-run theatre in the UK). Beldam is a 90 seater space, so production runs tend to be short with only a limited amount of time to see something once it is on. What makes it stand out from other theatrical spaces in Edinburgh is that it is a former church. Built in the grand neo-Gothic style, the building adds to the atmosphere of many of the plays and performances put on here.
This huge theatre can accommodate over 3,000 audience members for a single performance, so it could hardly be regarded as intimate. Despite this, the former cinema is surprisingly good for stage productions and one-off shows from touring companies. What makes it a favourite is the fact that many of the best comedians to tour the country will use the Playhouse for a performance in the city, so it remains the best place to catch the biggest names.
Church Hill Theatre
Reopened in 2006, the Church Hill Theatre has a strong following among younger audiences. This is because many of the performances put on here are by non-professionals and feature up-and-coming performers rather than established actors and directors. It is home to the Edinburgh University Footlights and to the Buckstone Youth Dance groups, for example. With just over 350 seats in the auditorium, the audience is never far from the action and, as such, the feel of the place is often quite exciting. Since it was renovated, disability access here was also heavily focused on.
This place has a mainstream audience since it puts on mostly touring shows, so take the trouble to find out what is on before booking tickets. It is probably one of Scotland's most historic theatres, which is why it makes our list of favourites. With a capacity of 1,350, the Kings is a big favourite with families during pantomime season.