Originally a cinema, the Edinburgh Playhouse is now an enormous theatre, hosting musicals, concerts, pantomimes, opera, dance and comedy throughout the year. It seats 3,059 people over three levels, making it the UK's largest theatre in terms of audience capacity.
The Playhouse opened in 1929 and was modelled on the famous and lavish Roxy Cinema in New York. It had originally been intended as a variety hall (hence the stage and 30 dressing rooms backstage), but instead became one of a breed of ‘super-cinemas’, which aimed to seat as many people as possible but still give customers a high-quality experience in opulent surroundings. Its modest façade belies the huge auditorium inside; the site slopes steeply and the stage itself is three floors below street level, with the orchestra pit underneath the stage.
In the 1970s, cinema-going was becoming less popular in the UK, and in 1973 the Playhouse was closed; proposals to demolish it and turn it into an office block were announced. However, after more than 15,000 people signed a petition to save it, the cinema was reprieved in 1974, made a listed building and reopened as a theatre six years later. Many of its original features still survive.
Hotels near Edinburgh Playhouse
The theatre has its own restaurant, The Boards, which is open to ticket holders two hours before every performance for meals, snacks, drinks and, on selected days, afternoon tea. Tours of the theatre are also available.
The Playhouse is believed to be haunted, as staff members have apparently reported seeing a man in a grey coat appearing on level six, accompanied by a sudden chill in the air. He is known as Albert, and is believed to be the ghost of a stagehand or a night watchman who committed suicide in the building.
You’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to hotels near Edinburgh Playhouse; it’s in the city centre in Greenside Place, just off Leith Walk. Princes Street, St James Shopping Centre, the Scottish National Gallery and Edinburgh Waverley train station are all within easy walking distance, with Edinburgh Castle, the Scottish Parliament Building, Holyrood Park and Holyrood Abbey also walkable.
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