IT’S the most popular venue in the Capital – a place where singing fills the air and it’s not unusual to see grown men shed tears as the second half ploughs on towards its thrilling conclusion.
We are of course referring to last year’s most popular pastime in the Capital – going to the theatre.
New figures released by the Edinburgh Playhouse show the historic venue has had a bumper year, welcoming nearly 90,000 more patrons than the combined number who attended Hearts and Hibs SPL home games over the same period.
In the last year the theatre has welcomed 537,329 people through its doors, a 44 per cent increase on the previous year, and 89,967 more than the total match attendances at Easter Road and Tynecastle between the beginning of April 2012 and the end of March this year.
General manager Gary Roden said: “There are actually a lot of similarities between football and theatre – people come to both to be entertained en masse. Some will probably be surprised to hear that we’re a bigger draw than the two grounds combined, but I think that’s down to the diversity of what we can offer.
“You’re unlikely to go to Tynecastle or Easter Road unless you like football, whereas here not only do we have a diverse range of theatre and music, but we have also been branching out further into comedy.
“It’s been an absolutely incredible year for us, certainly the busiest in my three years as general manager.”
In the past year key shows such as The Phantom of the Opera, Oliver! and Dirty Dancing were viewed by more than a quarter of a million people at the venue, with the big names of the comedy scene also proving a draw.
Kate Burton, a regular theatre-goer, put the success of the Playhouse down to its “spectacular” shows, adding: “I haven’t been to the football since I was 16. I just find the whole atmosphere too ‘blokey’ whereas theatre is much more inclusive.”
Derek Watson, chairman of the Hearts Supporters Trust, said he “wasn’t totally surprised” by the figures.
He added: “It’s all down to the quality of the shows they put on. Not that I’m saying the quality of the games at each ground isn’t also high, but we are both in the bottom sixth of the league.”
The Hibs Supporters Club also took a light-hearted view of the announcement.
Chairman Mike Riley said: “Good on the Playhouse. We need places like that in the city. But maybe we should start challenging them by putting some shows on at Easter Road.”
The success story for the Playhouse is set to continue over the next 12 months as the venue welcomes more of the most popular shows on the theatre circuit to its stage, including the stage adaptation of Disney’s The Lion King.
The Lion King, which arrives for a three-month stay in October, features a cast of more than 50 actors, singers and dancers, from 17 different countries, supported by a backstage team of more than 100 people, making the show the biggest musical production ever to tour the UK.
The production has been seen by more than 65 million people and continues to sell out at London’s Lyceum Theatre in its 14th year.