Lyceum: Venue of the Month
Nestled in Tollcross’s Grindlay Street, in the shadow of the Usher Hall, Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum Theatre treads a middle ground amongst Edinburgh’s theatres. It manages to bring experimental, new and consistently fascinating theatre to the table while at the same time providing a combination of space and scale to every show that it presents. The theatre’s season, running from September through to May, always provides just the right mix to make an impact on the Edinburgh scene and brings a bucket-load of Scottish talent to the forefront: just looking at the upcoming shows is enough to prove that.
From September through to December, the Lyceum is putting on a major revival of Scots play The Guid Sisters – based on the Quebecois Les Belles Souers – with the National Theatre of Scotland, a new production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the now legendary Lyceum Christmas Show. At the same time as providing diversity, the company also possesses the advantage of exclusively performing plays, whether these be comic, tragic or anything in between; this gives a focus and drive towards theatre that is unparalleled in Edinburgh, with no other space taking on plays exclusively.
Mark Thomson, Artistic Director of The Lyceum, made his enthusiasm clear at the announcement of the 2012/13 season. "We have three world premières, four co-productions, three great classics: an extraordinary seventy-two actors will walk on our stage with more than twenty other artistic creatives bringing their distinctive work to our stage. I am immensely proud that the Lyceum is able to play such a pivotal role in Scottish theatre."
Thomson affirms the importance of theatre as a political and social activity. "They are all big society plays presented at a time when tough economics challenge us to consider what the most precious values of our society are," he says. "Theatre and its great writers have a lot to say in this debate. Who wouldn’t want a society whose values were defined and led by William Shakespeare, J B Priestley, Shelagh Delaney, Michel Tremblay, Donna Franceschild, David Haig and Johnny McKnight? And I’d much rather hear them talk about it too. Much more entertaining!"
However, it’s not just the company or the shows that make visits to the Lyceum special, but the building itself. The Victorian auditorium is beautiful to look at: trimmed with lush red and gold and topped off with a grand chandelier; but that is not the most impressive thing about the venue. The space above the stage is frankly colossal and the stage itself is massive but somehow, when sitting in the stalls, it manages to foster the kind of intimacy that you would normally find in a studio.
This is all twinned with marbled floors, red carpets and a magnificent bar on the outside to make a truly stunning package – there are few better places to spend a night in Edinburgh, let alone one at the theatre. This is all made even more pleasant by the staff, who always seem to have smiles plastered on their faces even when the bar is heaving.
The Lyceum is a wonderful theatre, particularly right now at the beginning of its main season. It’s not over the top yet it’s never boring; it’s not too big, it’s not too small: it’s just right.