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- Category: B
- Date Added: 12/12/1974
- Local Authority: Edinburgh
- Planning Authority: Edinburgh
- Burgh: Edinburgh
National Grid Reference
- NGR: NT 26007 73258
- Coordinates: 326007, 673258
W and T R Milburn (Sunderland and London), 1927-9 (auditorium) with exterior by Law & Dunbar-Nasmith Partnership, 1994 (see Notes). Large, fine interior and distinctive 1994 theatre with 3-storey concave glass and steel entrance elevation to E (Nicolson Street) and concrete breezeblock to rear and S elevations.
INTERIOR: (seen 2007). Panelled timber doors from foyer lead to grand, impressive, richly decorated 3-storey auditorium with mixture of beaux-arts and Classical detailing. Pink, cream and gold colouring. Wide proscenium arch with decorative plasterwork. 2 pairs of tall, round-arched boxes flanking stage with decorative carving. Deep coffered ceiling with central dome. Timber flooring. Ionic columns support upper gallery. Decorative filigree moulding to front of boxes and galleries. Red plush velvet tip-up seats to all areas, including boxes. Later tiered Art Deco light fittings.
Later (1994) foyer and backstage areas.
Statement of Special Interest
The Edinburgh Festival Theatre is particularly notable for its grand, spacious and finely decorated interior, now enclosed in a late 20th century exterior with glass and steel street façade. The sumptuous interior is a good example of theatre design from the early 20th century by the specialist theatre designers, W and T R Milburn.
The current theatre is situated on a site which has been occupied by a succession of theatres since 1830 and which included one built by the celebrated Frank Matcham in 1892. By 1927, the theatre was beginning to look dated and was finding it difficult to compete with the new emerging film industry. It closed in 1927 and was rebuilt to a design by William and T R Milburn, who had replaced Matcham as the designers for Moss Empires. Their approach was less flamboyant and more classical than Matcham's and they designed a large auditorium with capacity for 2000 and with side aisles. This new theatre opened in 1929. It closed again in 1962 and was used until 1992 as a Bingo Hall. In 1994, the auditorium underwent restoration by the Edinburgh architects Law & Dunbar Nasmith Partnership and a new backstage and dressing rooms were built, together with a new frontage and foyer. This current theatre opened in 1994.
William and T R Millburn were specialist theatre architects who practised mainly in the North of England and who are associated especially with the Moss Empires chain of theatres.
List description revised as part of the Edinburgh Holyrood Ward resurvey 2007-08.
2nd Edition Ordnance Survey Map, (1876-7). Bruce Peter, Scotland's Splendid Theatres 1999, p36-42. Information from www.eft.co.uk (accessed 14-05-07) John Gifford, Colin McWilliam and David Walker, The Buildings of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1984. p248. New Theatre from an old Variety Hall, Architects' Journal Vol 199, No 25, 1994 p29-34.
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