Edinburgh Theatre Guide: The Best Places To See a Show

Glasgow Kings Theatre
Glasgow Kings Theatre | © Jimmy Baikovicius/Flickr
Tori Chalmers

Whether contemporary or avant-garde, nothing beats witnessing a raw, pure performance live at the theatre. Overflowing with theatres, Edinburgh happens to be quite the platform for aspiring artists, comedians and thespians alike. Experience the quintessential ‘Fringe-feel’ around the clock and discover the best places to see a show.

1. Festival Theatre

Festival Theatre | © Dancewear Central/Flickr
© Dancewear Central/Flickr

Home to Edinburgh’s Scottish Ballet and Scottish Opera, Festival Theatre is an exciting hub that pays homage to the arts. Since 1994, this sell-out space has been praised as one of Scotland’s most prestigious venues, along with being the largest performance area in Scotland. From a riveting dance season and big name musicals, to opera, festivals, and film screenings, this 2,500 square foot venue, which has 1,915 seats and a marvelous, glass-adorned foyer, is bursting to the brim with creativity, poise and innovation. Festival Theatre also takes to the Fringe like a ballerina to Swan Lake.

2. King’s Theatre


Kings Theatre | © David P Howard/Geograph
© David P Howard/Geograph
Noble and majestic, the King’s Theatre has been around since 1906, when it was designed as a variety theatre. Today, a myriad of world-class seasonal acts pour out of this performance space, from West End shows and gritty touring dramas to the Edinburgh International Festival and, of course, the annual (and mandatory) dazzling panto. Undeniably one of Scotland’s tried and trusted theatres, it’s no surprise that greats like Sir Sean Connery, Maria Callas and Sir Ian McKellen have set foot on this star-studded stage.

3. Edinburgh Playhouse

Building, Cinema, Theatre

Edinburgh Playhouse
Courtesy of dancewearcentral.co.uk
Edinburgh Playhouse made a dramatic entrance to the world in 1929 as a ‘super-cinema’ modeled on the Roxy Cinema in New York. Today, the Playhouse champions a vast array of concerts, touring musicals, and comedians, along with catering to the youth by hosting a multitude of stage experience and youth musical projects. A bustling venue during both the Fringe and the Edinburgh International Festival, this timeless performance space has a capacity of 3,059. Oh, and don’t mind Albert, the theatre ghost said to haunt the building on a regular basis!

5. Royal Lyceum Theatre

Opera House, Theatre

Royal Lyceum Theatre
Courtesy of dancewearcentral.co.uk
Designed by Charles J. Phipps in 1883, the Royal Lyceum Theatre derived its name from the Theatre Royal Lyceum and English Opera House (the residence of prolific Shakespearean actor Henry Irving) and is one of the architect’s most unaltered works. With 658 seats and a charming personality, the Royal Lyceum Theatre is one of Scotland’s most successful producing companies and another prominent Fringe and Edinburgh International Festival venue. From epic and pioneering drama productions to the Christmas family show, and works from the Lyceum Youth Theatre, this theatrical hub has the lot. A hotbed for some of opera’s biggest performances, the likes of Madam Butterfly, Manon and Die Meistersinger all saw their first Scottish performance here.

6. The Brunton Theatre

© Courtesy of The Brunton Theatre

Situated just a stone’s throw away from Edinburgh’s city centre in Musselburgh, The Brunton Theatre proudly boasts two auditoriums, an accompanying bistro and a café bar area. A known hangout for families, The Brunton showcases year-round performances of music, theatre, dance, comedy, children’s shows and film. The annual panto never fails to leave theatregoers in stitches of laughter, just as the Hogmanay programme of festivities should not be missed.

7. Bedlam Theatre

Church, Theater

Bedlam Theatre
Courtesy of dancewearcentral.co.uk
Revolutionary and fresh, Bedlam Theatre near the Royal Mile is an entirely student run affair and a platform for learning the tricks of the trade in all aspects of theatre. This 90-seat space is in a dramatic and impressive neo-gothic church filled with unwavering charm and maintained by the students. With an impressive alumni (many of whom tend to dive straight into the industry or top theatre schools), over 40 productions each year, multiple workshops and an eclectic array of shows, there’s no stopping this powerhouse.

8. Church Hill Theatre

Church, Theater

Church Hill Theatre
© WikiCommons
Situated in Morningside within the walls of a former church, Church Hill Theatre has been showcasing top-notch theatre performances since its conversion in the 1960s. This leading non-professional theatre, which was designed by prolific Scottish architect Hippolyte Blanc — praised for his love of Gothic revival and major restoration projects like Edinburgh Castle and John Knox House — is popular during the Fringe and throughout the year with amateur companies. From small talks and demonstrations to theatre and shows like the Wizard of Oz and Goldilocks, this 353 seat auditorium is one of Scotland’s finer small venues, overflowing with personality.
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