18-22 Greenside Place,
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Messrs. Maguire and Lumley wanted the best for this theatre on the site which they had owned for many years.
After touring America studying such gems as New York’s Roxy Theatre, they returned to Scotland and appointed John Fairweather to design Edinburgh’s biggest cinema.
The site is on a steep slope which falls away from street level so the auditorium is of greater height than the facade suggests.
It opened on 12th August 1929 and is constucted in three blocks all separate in case of fire. The huge auditorium with total seating capacity of 3,053, with 1,508 in the stalls, 682 in the mezzanine circle and 863 in the balcony has hardly been altered since.
A Hilsdon organ was installed which complimented the orchestra which survived for several years after the advent of sound. The first film was was “The Doctor’s Secret”.
The proscenium, in front of an exceptionally large stage, is very fine with a ‘sunburst’ feature in the centre and is framed by a single box surmounted by a triparte opening with grilles (behind which were the organ pipes). Above this is a demi-lune arch. The whole framed by Ionic pillasters with a rectangular pediment above. The side walls are generally plain – the exception being at top level where there are four large dummy windows on each side. The ceiling is divided into rectanglar coffered panels with a raised area above the rear balcony and a dome over the front stalls.
By the mid-1970’s the Playhouse was hopelessly too large and after a final performance of “Live and Let Die” on the 24th November 1973 it closed. The following year adverts were placed inviting tenders for demolition.
Happily its vast size and large stage attracted interest from opera fans who were tired of waiting for a long promised opera house for the city.
After a very chequered start and several changes of ownership, the Playhouse is once again a most successful venture housing big musicals for up to 6 months at a time. It is also one of the main venues for the Edinburgh International Festival when its large stage is highly suited to dance.
Shortly after these photographs were taken the theatre was extensively refurbished for a long run of “Les Miserables”.
On 12th December 1974, Historic Scotland designated the Playhouse Theatre a Grade B Listed building. This was up-graded to Grade A Listed in June 2008.
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