Scotland's theatre architecture revealed in new publication
8 March 2011
A new booklet which looks at the architects and styles of Scotland’s theatres is
being launched today, Tuesday 8th March at Glasgow’s Theatre Royal.
Written by Historic Scotland and the Theatres Trust, the booklet looks at theatre
design from 1736 up until the late twentieth century, ranging from Victorian opulence and Edwardian
designs to 20th century conversions and post-war theatres.
Fiona Hyslop, Minister for Culture and External affairs said: “Scotland’s
theatres contribute widely to our sense of place. They range from prominent and highly distinctive
buildings which give character and expression to our streetscapes to near-hidden structures which often
conceal the most amazing decorative interiors. Each theatre has its own history, its own story
to tell and contributes to the richness and diversity of Scotland’s cultural heritage.”
The booklet looks at a range of theatre architecture including the Edwardian baroque
style of the King’s Theatre in Glasgow with its marble-lined entrance foyer to the A-listed Tivoli Theatre
in Aberdeen with its striking Venetian Gothic style elevation and Edinburgh’s A-listed classical
Royal Lyceum Theatre.
It appears that the first regular theatre in Scotland to be established was in Edinburgh
at Carrubber’s Close in 1736. One of the earliest surviving purpose-built theatres is the Theatre
Royal in Dumfries which is still in use today. It opened in 1792 and was designed by the local
architect Thomas Boyd.
A great number of 19th century theatres were destroyed by fire. A combination
of extensive use of wood in the interiors as well as candlelight, gas lighting and limelight meant that
they were susceptible. While 18th century theatre survivals are rare, the late 19th century
introduction of electric lighting and the safety curtain to prevent fires on stage reaching the audience
have left us with an impressive legacy of late Victorian and Edwardian theatres.
In the second half of the 20th century, entertainment venues faced competition in
their struggle to retain an audience, particularly with the popularity of television. Many theatres
were demolished at this time or converted to other uses. In the 1960’s local authorities took
on the role of building new theatres, often as part of wider civic complexes and with a multi-purpose
use envisioned from their inception.
Pitlochry Festival Theatre was founded by John Stewart in 1951 and began life giving
performances in a tent. A permanent venue was completed in 1981 and it is estimated that Pitlochry
Festival Theatre contributes £13million to the area’s economy each year.
The Universal Hall at the Findhorn Foundation Community has a spectacular setting
on the edge of sand dunes near Forres in Moray. Completed around 1983, it is an interesting example
of late 20th century theatre building in Scotland, and was built by a volunteer workforce, using largely
natural materials, sourced locally where possible. Comprising a cafe and theatre space, it is
not just a theatre, but a community hub.
Mhora Samuel, Director of the Theatres Trust said: “We are extremely pleased
to have been able to assist in the creation of this thematic study and look forward to further collaborations
with Historic Scotland. This booklet is a valuable resource to anyone interested in the history
of Scottish theatres and their contribution to the cultural and architectural heritage of Scotland”.
People who wish to request a copy of the booklet should contact Valerie Lusk on
0131 668 8762 or email@example.com
. Anyone who would like to download
the booklet should go to www.historic-scotland.gov.uk//historicandlistedbuildingspublications
The Theatres Trust, the national advisory public body for theatres was a partner
in the development of the publication providing source material from its national theatres database.
This includes architectural listings of theatres by some of the finest British theatre architects,
including Charles James Phipps and Frank Matcham who designed the Theatre Royal in Glasgow and the Tivoli
in Aberdeen respectively.
Notes for editors
- Historic Scotland is an executive agency of the Scottish Government charged
with safeguarding the nation’s historic environment. The agency is fully accountable to Scottish Ministers
and through them to the Scottish Parliament.