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All You Need to Know About the Edinburgh Festival Theatre

Feb 14, 2024
All You Need to Know About the Edinburgh Festival Theatre

 In the heart of the action, the Edinburgh Festival Theatre has been a stalwart of the Scottish capital’s entertainment scene since 1892. This popular venue hosts operas, ballets and musical events, attracting thousands of visitors yearly.

Whether living in Edinburgh or travelling for leisure, the Festival Theatre is among the best things to do in the city. Learn more about its history and past and present performances in our guide.

A brief history of the Edinburgh Festival Theatre

Found along Nicolson Street, the Edinburgh Festival Theatre is the brainchild of British architect Frank Matcham. Boasting opulent décor and ornaments, it’s home to the Scottish Opera and Scottish Ballet.

Here’s a brief history of this fascinating venue:

• In 1892, it opened as the Empire Palace, the first of the Moss Empires’ chain
• The theatre suffered a severe fire in 1911, which burnt the whole venue to the ground
• It reopened three months later after undergoing significant work and hosted its first production in 1928 – the Show Boat musical
Between 1928 and 1963, the theatre served mainly as a musical and opera house
• In 1963, it became a bingo hall and occasionally hosted live music events
• It received its current name, ‘Festival Theatre’, in 1994 and welcomed a new glass façade and stage
Today, it can seat 1,915 spectators, making it Scotland’s largest performing arts venue

Popular performances at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre

Between 1928 and 1963, world-renowned artists graced its stage, including Harry Lauder, Charles Laughton and Joe Loss. English comedians like Harry Worth and Max Wall also performed here. Between 1947 and 1963, it became the main venue of the Edinburgh International Festival, with shows by the Royal Ballet and Royal Opera.

After Stephen Barry took over the theatre’s restoration in 1997, it started attracting National Theatre productions like Hamilton and War Horse. Other famous shows included Miss Saigon, Mary Poppins and Les Misérables.

What’s on at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre?

Popular Edinburgh Festival Theatre events include ballet, dance shows and musicals, from Grease and Sister Act to Swan Lake and Edward Scissorhands.

Visitors can participate in film screenings, workshops and activities for unique, immersive experiences. These range from backstage tours to ‘Taster Days’, where you can join the cast and crew behind the scenes to learn more about the show-making process.

Whatever you choose to watch, you’re guaranteed a fun-filled day or night out.

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