FESTIVAL THEATRE FEATURE
It’s got a curvy glass front, it used to be a bingo hall, and it re-opens on 18 June with a gala variety
performance. So what’s new? Now get ready for . . .
Ten things you didn’t know about the Festival Theatre
I 1. The old Empire Theatre opened contain a total of 1404 separate pieces nearly 102 years ago on 7 November of glass,
1892. on the present site in Nicolson a. Street . which had been occupied by various theatres since the 1820s. The grand opening featured military bands. horses. dogs. cockatoos. solo vocalists and a special appearance by the Brothers Poluski. ‘Grotesque Comedians'. Occupants of the boxes and grand circle received souvenir programmes ‘beautifully printed on satin‘.
I 2. In order to inspect the premises while carrying out feasibility studies in the mid- I 970s. Professor James Dunbar-Nasmith joined the Empire Bingo Club. Failing to cross off his numbers with the required alacrity. he was helped out by a kindly wiﬁe in the row behind.
I 3. The refurbished auditorium features some 4000 light ﬁttings. not including the state-of-the-art stage lighting. The centrepiece is a two- metre-high an deco chandelier comprising 76 lamps and 180 glass facets. The twenty smaller chandeliers
. "’ - Roy Rogers and Trigger
I 4. Among the luminaries who performed at the Empire were George Forrnby in 1940 and ‘41 and Morecambe and Wise in the late 1950s. But the peak season was 1954/5. when the theatre was visited by Roy Rogers and Trigger. Chico Marx. Judy Garland and Laurel and Hardy, who were welcomed by crowds who thronged Waverley Bridge and Princes Street.
I 5. When the Queen (now the Queen Mother) visited the theatre with Princess Margaret to see Les Ballets des Champs Elysees during the 1949 Festival. the front row ofthe stalls was replaced. for the beneﬁt of Their Royal Behindnesses. with comfy ﬂoral armchairs.
I 6. The theatre’s facilities for the disabled were recently described in Disability News as ‘an outstanding model of good practice'. Special features include the counter-heights at the box ofﬁce and foyer cafe. which are set for wheelchair—users. and soundproof booths which — when they are not housing translators — may be used by sufferers of Tourette's Syndrome. who may curse the performer of their choice without eliciting cold stares frotn their fellow audience members.
I 7. Another innovation this time for the visually disabled. is the talking lift. which tells you which ﬂoor you are on. Its voice was digitally recorded by none other than Scots actor and comedian Jimmy Logan.
I 8. Edinburgh now has a total of9000 permanent theatre seats. including 3075
at the Playhouse and 1337 at the King‘s. plus the Lyceum. Traverse and Theatre Workshop. To avoid conﬂicts of interest. the District Council‘s Recreation (Arts and Entertainment) Department has set up a ‘clash diary' system. Four times a year. the city‘s artistic directors and theatre managers shelve their rivalries and meet to compare ﬁlofaxes. I 9. Edinburgh District Council paid around £2.6 million to the Rank Organisation for the building in March 1991. Conversion and refurbishment costs were then variously estimated at 1 £11 million and £145 million. Theatre performances were resumed temporarily during the Festival of 1991. and it was conﬁdently expected that the updated venue would open ‘in good time’ for the 1993 Festival. Various cash crises ensued. I TO. In the event the renovations cost £20 million. of which nearly a quarter was raised from the private sector. The theatre is expected to offer up to 300 performances per year. One Trident missile. which offers a maximum of one performance. comes in at an estimated £18 million. . .
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The origil Empire staff.
Ballet is bringing two different programmes to Edinburgh: Kenneth MacMiIlan's celebrated version of Romeo and Juliet plus a Triple Bill of Frederick Ashton's Enigma Variations. Leonide Massine’s Le Trir-ome and Glen Tetley‘s Voluntaries. 28 Oct—5 Nov.
I lithuanian National Philharmonic Orchestra The opening up of the former Soviet Union has released a ﬂood of touring orchestras from the newly independent states. The Lithuanians are joined by a more familiar ﬁgure. pianist Dmitri Alexeev. in Beethoven‘s mighty [Emperor Concerto. 30 Oct.
I Penguin Cate Orchestra Simon Jeffes
is both leader and inspiration behind this
i cult band‘s idiosyncratic mixture of classical and rock mores. 6 Nov.
I The Provoked Wife The first production 1 by a new company. The Touring Partnership. which has been established by the Festival Theatre along with six other premier theatres around Britain. Directed by Stuart Burge. 'l'he Provo/ted Wi 'e is a sharply observed restoration comedy by John Vanbrugh involving transvestite antics, social satire and elegant wit. 12-15 ()(t
I lily Savage ‘Get up at 2pm. Cough for half an hour and then have a full Birkenhead Breakfast: 20 ciggies and a pot of tea.‘ That was how Lily described the start of her typical day in a diary column she wrote for The List last summer. Once up and about. she goes shoplifting. chats tip any handsome young hunks she can ﬁnd. hosts Ann Summers parties or. occasionally, invites us tojoin her on a night out as a seminal cabaret artiste. 16 Oct.
I Ballet Rambert World premiere performances under the company's new artistic director. Christopher Bruce. Cat-es is a new work based on Gorecki's Quasirina Fantasia and Rambert are also reviving Martha Clarke‘s Garden of Earthly Delights. [9—22 ()('l.
I The Hollies Sixties popsters who got serious later (but didn't they all). still rolling on after all these years. 23 Oct.
I The Birmingham Royal Ballet Continuing an impressive ﬁrst season of dance at the Festival Theatre. the Royal I
I Siobhan Davies Dance Company in six months nearly every major dance company in Britain will have performed on this stage. Siobhan Davies' extraordinarily inventive choreography was recognised recently when she won the Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance. The programme consists of two new works. The Glass Blew In to Gavin Bryars' Three Elegies
for Nine (.‘larinets and Wanting To 'Iell Stories. 8 Not:
I Rose English ‘An equestrienne with an extravagance of bare ﬂesh in ﬁgure- hugging silver lame plus a stallion' is what the programme promises us. Need we say more? ll Nov.
I Sydney Devine Ayr's answer to George Jones returns for another unasharned session of country schmaltz. Bring a hankie. 12 Not:
I The Sixties Show A chance for nostalgic pop-people to relive the thrill of the original Mersey beat with The Searchers. The Swinging Blue Jeans. Billy J. Kramer and The Dakotas. and The Merseybeats. [3 Not:
I Shadowlands Before the film, was the play. Now the stage version of C. S. (Narnia) Lewis's love affair with American poet Joy Gresham comes to Edinburgh. Starring Anton Rodgers and Elizabeth Garvie. 14—l9 Not:
I The Rocky Horror Show The perfect example of popular culture's ability to take the dangerously radical and render it down into harmless trists-market culture. orjust plain fun? Either way. the cleaners won't like it. 22—26 N()1'.
I Vienna Roys’ Choir Justly famed for the exceptional purity of its singing over the years. this choir has achieved near- legendary status in circles where these things are discussed. 27 Not:
I Scottish Opera A reprise of Within and Isolde and Fit/Clio will stand alongside Donizetti's Mary Stuart and Puccini's Madame Butterfly in Scottish Opera's ﬁrst subscription season in its new Edinburgh home. 29 Nov—ll) Der:
I Messiah The Sixteen perform Handel‘s obligatory oratorio as their ﬁnal offering. ll [)er'.
KATIA & MARIELLE
;) sir Z'iv strigs 2'
West Side Story -1’1Cl (icrstix. '“s Rhapsody in Blue
Festival Theatre 031 529 6000 Wed 27 July. 7.30pm
Nicolson St hamburg.“ EHB 9!". Tickets £5.50 ~ £15.50
"the mm! thrilling [utrtm'nhip in music tmlitv. .. \Itn‘r verve and outmei'uuutrn" DAIl r initiative
The List 3 to June 199413