Student Guide 2015: best theatre in Edinburgh
- Gareth K Vile
- 8 September 2015
Want to know where to get your fix of all things theatre in Edinburgh? Our theatre editor offers an overview
Much of Edinburgh’s theatre is concentrated in the ‘cultural quarter’ – the Lyceum and the Traverse are back-to-back with the Usher Hall between them, just off Lothian Road. The Lyceum, which is celebrating a half-century of productions, has a mixture of classic scripts and more contemporary work (Tipping the Velvet arrives in October, an adaptation of the book that became the sensational television series), while the Traverse is Scotland’s new writing theatre.
The Traverse’s history reaches back to the 1960s, when it became one of the ‘fringe’ venues that challenged traditional ideas about theatre. It has been evolving ever since: it currently hosts touring companies, and mixes up the new writing with new choreography, the wonderful Manipulate festival of visual theatre and, of course, a powerful August Fringe programme. Stef Smith is currently the associate artist, and Orla O’Loughlin has encouraged a strong female presence in both commissions and programming. A counterblast to the overall male dominance of theatre, it continues the Traverse tradition of poking at the status quo.
Although Edinburgh is less well served for alternative spaces, Summerhall and Assembly Roxy have, in recent years, taken on some of the more intriguing theatremakers, including the mighty 85A collective from Glasgow (a team of visual, film and performance artists who have established a dynamic DIY aesthetic). There is the Leith Pub Theatre, which is constantly generating new scripts, and Dive and Polyanna offer cabaret that is equal parts queer live art and bracing entertainment.
Cabaret in the capital is vibrant: the Voodoo Rooms puts on regular burlesque and vaudeville nights, and even the clubbing scene has a more theatrical edge, with Confusion is Sex adding a spot of performance art between the beats.
Edinburgh and Glasgow do offer distinctive scenes, and travelling between them is easy (Megabus sells advance tickets for as little as £1). In general, Glasgow has edgier work, but Edinburgh boasts an array of venerable institutions. The Festival Theatre and the King’s in Edinburgh both invite the top international companies, and the Playhouse offers long runs of West End musicals. The actual numbers who do shuttle between east and west coasts is limited – Edinburgh and Glasgow pride and rivalry does extend into the arts. But between the two, most styles of performance are covered, enough to exhaust even the most ardent theatre enthusiast.