On 10 September 1883, Edinburgh's Royal Lyceum Theatre opened its doors to audiences for the first time. Designed by the architect CJ Phipps, who also built some of London's most iconic West End theatres, the building cost £17,000 to build and was originally managed by Howard and Wyndham, two major theatrical agents whose company would go on to produce nearly a century of musical revues, pantomimes and repertory theatre work.
The Lyceum's inaugural production in 1883 was Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, and starred Henry Irving and Ellen Terry, of which it was written: "never before did Shakespeare's delightful comedy receive an interpretation so adequate in essentials and in every detail so artistically complete".
The original audience, accommodated across four levels of the theatre, was around 2,500 people - today, with an upper level no longer used for seating and remodelled lower levels for the comfort of twenty-first-century audiences, the capacity is a little over 650. This makes it incredibly intimate for a venue of this size, and one of the great features of the theatre today is its ornate internal decoration and its comfortable seating.
Over the years the venue has hosted a wide variety of works, including early cinema broadcasts in 1912, with funds from screenings being donated to charities supporting families hit by the loss of the Titanic, visits by HRH Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh in 1955 and 1962, and the premiere of the influential satirical revue Beyond the Fringe, featuring Alan Bennett, Peter Cook, Dudley Moore and Jonathan Miller, in August 1960.
In 1965 a new Royal Lyceum Theatre Company was formed, and that same company, under a variety of artistic leaderships, has operated the venue ever since. The company produces all its own in-house work, creates its own scenery and costumes at dedicated workshops in the city, and employs actors from all across the United Kingdom, often attracting star performers to tread the theatre's boards. In 2015 the company celebrated its 50th anniversary season, and in autumn 2016 the company begins life under its new artistic director, David Greig.
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