The Theatres Trust

Playhouse (Edinburgh)

  • Theatre ID
  • Built / Converted
  • Dates of use
    • 1929: continuing
  • Current state
  • Current use
  • Address
    18-22 Greenside Place, Edinburgh, Lothian, EH1 3AA, Scotland
  • Website


The Playhouse is truly a great monster of a theatre - in every sense. This vast enterprise started life as a ‘super’ cinema with full stage facilities and a caféall the work of Fairweather, designer of several such giants in the 1930s. The inspiration was American - the architect went to the United States to study the latest trends. The Playhouse makes clever use of a sloping site, the vast brick bulk of the auditorium rearing up behind the clumsy symmetrical sandstone façe of eleven bays in debased classical style. A proscenium frame recess denotes the entrance between flanking shop units. Within, it is the scale which impresses most of all. There are commodious foyers with fine terrazzo floors and a partially glazed barrel vaulted ceiling in the inner foyer. The decor is heavyweight classical with torch-bearers flanking the stairways and giant cornices everywhere. The auditorium has two massive fully cantilevered balconies, each seating over 1,000. These curve to meet single stage boxes below organ grilles with fanlights, flanked by giant pilasters. Above the upper circle, truncated pilasters rise to the heavily beamed ceiling. The entire interior is decorated in Apollo Leisure’s standard lipstick red and gold. Remarkable as a cinema, the Playhouse is perhaps the least beautiful of Edinburgh’s major theatres. It is, however, among the most commercially effective, its large capacity and well equipped stage (c.13m deep) being put to good use with short runs of touring West End musical sensations.

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Auditorium of the Playhouse Theatre, Edinburgh, 1993
© Ian Grundy

The Gods at the Playhouse Theatre, Edinburgh, 1993
© Ian Grundy

Auditorium of the Playhouse Theatre, Edinburgh, 1993
© Ian Grundy

Proscenium at the Playhouse Theatre, Edinburgh, 1993
© Ian Grundy

Box Office at the Playhouse Theatre, Edinburgh, 1993
© Ian Grundy

Side Elevation of the Playhouse Theatre, Edinburgh, 1993
© Ian Grundy

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  • Events
    • 1929 Use: continuing
    • 1929 Design/Construction:
      • John Fairweather - Architect
    • 1929 Owner/Management: Edinburgh Playhouse Ltd
    • 1975 Owner/Management: Lothian Region
    • 1983 Owner/Management: Apollo Leisure, now Live Nation.
    • 2009 Owner/Management: Bought by Ambassador Theatre Group
  • Capacities
    • Original: 3040
    • Later: 1951: 3048
    • Current: 3056
  • Listings
    • Grade B
    • Grade A
  • Stage type
    • Proscenium, flat
  • Dimensions
    • Stage dimensions: Depth: c.13m
    • Proscenium width: 14.98m

Of the period

Exterior of Stockport Plaza, showing façade and side wall, December 2009
Plaza (Stockport)

Have you seen?

Disused Limelights in Follow-Spot Box at The Tivoli Theatre, Aberdeen, 2003
Tivoli Theatre (Aberdeen)

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