Royal Lyceum Theatre

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh

Lying behind the Usher Hall on Grindlay Street in Edinburgh, is the Royal Lyceum Theatre. The stucco Victorian Renaissance frontage, with Corinthian columns and pediments, is somewhat spoiled by a modern conservatory, containing a cafe, built over the entrance. Inside, the theatre seats 1200 people between stalls and three levels of gallery, and the classical motifs continue. It was an early example of a building lit by electricity.

The theatre was built by C.J. Phipps at a cost of £17,000 for Howard & Wyndham, a company which managed a chain of theatres throughout Britain. J.B. Howard and Fred Wyndham formed their partnership in 1883, the year in which the Lyceum was completed. They had both trained in Edinburgh under William Murray at the Theatre Royal, which once stood in Leith Street, but was destroyed by fire in 1946. Changing tastes brought an unsuccessful experiment with occasional use as a cinema in the first two decades of the 20th Century Thereafter the theatre concentrated on repertory and promoted a policy for quality, tradition and innovation, which continues to the present day.

Howard & Wyndham sold the Royal Lyceum to Edinburgh Council in 1965 and the theatre has subsequently been run by a trust. The Royal Lyceum Theatre Company, which began under the artistic direction of Tom Fleming (b.1927), runs a year-round programme of drama, including the classics, new works and plays by Scottish authors. In addition to performances at its base, the company regularly tours around Scotland. Every year, in August, the theatre is used as a venue by the Edinburgh International Festival.

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