The Edinburgh Playhouse reopens today, Friday 4th August 2023, with Forth On The Fringe, following a 12-week maintenance project that began on 15th May 2023.
The usual, very busy, schedule of shows was put on pause to complete a program of venue refurbishments to help further future-proof the theatre.
The project included upgrades to the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, stone cleaning and work to restore the building façade, and the installation of a digital screen. In addition to this work, there was also the installation of a new orchestra pit control system and some general building maintenance going on throughout the closure period.
Marie Nixon, Edinburgh Playhouse Theatre Director said, “Whilst the majority of the work done over the last 12-weeks was behind the scenes, we hope it will make our audiences' experience in our theatre more comfortable. We are delighted to be able to welcome patrons back to the Edinburgh Playhouse to a jam-packed summer, with one of our most vibrant Festival and Fringe programmes to date, including internationally acclaimed names such as Dame Judi Dench and Greta Thunberg. Importantly, the maintenance project has further ensured that we can welcome our audiences into our building time and time again, for decades to come.”
This project follows two key phases of work which have already been completed at the building; in 2014, new seating and flooring were installed in the Stalls and Circle levels of the theatre, as well as the 18 additional washrooms that were added to the Mezzanine level. In 2020, a new scene dock was constructed giving better access to the backstage areas for touring productions.
From May 2023, the front of the building was covered by a scaffold and a protective Monarflex covering to allow for a program of stone cleaning and restoration as well as the installation of some new exterior lighting. Two massive cranes were used over two days to remove the old air source heat pump from the roof and replace it with a new one – all done in the very early hours of the morning.
Many fascinating discoveries were made throughout the time the theatre closed. From organ pipes to ticket stubbs, vintage gloves to wood receipts from 1928 – it illuminates just how many happy memories have been made at the Edinburgh Playhouse over the years; a very fitting sentiment as the theatre approaches its 94th birthday on 12th August 2023.
The rest of this year brings week long productions of Greatest Days the musical and the King and I, a 3 day run of TV favourite Mrs Browns Boys, followed by opening the first ever UK tour of Disney’s Aladdin for a 4 week run. The year ends with a 5 and a half week run of Wicked, and the Edinburgh Playhouse is again the opening venue for this UK tour. Going forward into 2024, the programme is made up of even more spectacular shows for audiences to enjoy – The Wizard of Oz, Jesus Christ Superstar, Pretty Woman and Grease to name a few.
With over 3000 seats, the Edinburgh Playhouse is the UK’s largest all-seated theatre. Firmly established in the cultural landscape of Edinburgh and Scotland it plays host to some of the biggest names in live music, stand-up comedy, and musical theatre. It also welcomes many shows as part of the Edinburgh International Festival and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
Although designed as a variety theatre, the Playhouse opened in 1929 as Scotland’s second largest cinema. It was hugely successful and remained so until the downturn in cinema attendance in the early 70s. When it closed in November 1973, the building was at risk of demolition, but following several years of public ‘save the Playhouse’ campaigns, it was eventually saved. The building reopened in 1980 as the fully functional theatre it was always intended to be.
In the years since, it has hosted the likes of Elton John, Nick Cave, Bruce Springsteen, Kevin Bridges, Tim Minchin, and international hit musicals such as Wicked, We Will Rock You, Matilda, and Disney’s The Lion King.
The Edinburgh Playhouse is owned by Ambassador Theatre Group.