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PLAYHOUSE THEATRE

 

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EDINBURGH PLAYHOUSE THEATRE

The Playhouse Theatre first opened its doors to the public in 1929. Originally planned as a variety theatre, by the time construction was complete, this decision was overturned in favour of the building becoming a cinema. In fact, it was to become the largest cinema in Scotland and the fourth largest in the UK.

Designed by Glasgow-born architect John Fairweather, in turn inspired by the works of Dundee-born architect Thomas W Lamb, who designed many early British and American cinemas, the building operated successfully as a movie theatre for over 40 years, during which time some huge stars of the silver screen, such as Marlene Dietrich and Laurel and Hardy paid a visit.

The decline in the cinema business saw the building be put up for sale in 1973. After being bought by a property developer who wished to demolish the building and construct an office block in its place – thankfully planning permission for this was not granted – the building was saved by campaigners, led by two former Playhouse employees, Gordon Lucas and Larry McGuire, who managed to accrue support to the tune of 15,000 petition signatures and secured the Secretary of State putting a Class B Preservation Order on the building.

Later, in 1975, The Playhouse Preservation Action Group was formed, which garnered yet more signatures – over 13,000. This group wanted to see the building become home to opera and ballet performances. However it wasn’t until 1980 that Lothian Regional Council bought the building and turned it into the multi-purpose theatre venue we know today.

Some of the biggest names in music have performed at The Playhouse, such as Bob Dylan, U2, Johnny Cash, The Who and Tom Waits and it has also been the home of many long running and globally successful musicals such as Grease, Cats, Les Miserables, Mamma Mia and Phantom of the Opera.

 
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