Playhouse Theatre sells off old seats in revamp

Playhouse general manager Adam Knight and box office manager Barbara Callard with some of the seats that have already been removed. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Playhouse general manager Adam Knight and box office manager Barbara Callard with some of the seats that have already been removed. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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THEATRE lovers are being given a unique chance to own a piece of the Capital’s famous Playhouse Theatre – with hundreds of their seats being sold off.

A £250,000 drive to replace all the seats at the iconic theatre will see 800 chairs in the stalls removed over the next few weeks.

The move is part of wider plans to upgrade and improve the facilities and will see a team of around 20 people work to uproot the seats.

And many will then be sold off to raise funds for charity and the theatre’s own youth bursary schemes.

Venue bosses hope to rake in at least £50 a chair from punters eager to snap up a piece of theatrical history, with around £3500 expected to be stumped up overall.

The renovation work follows the first phase of removals in November last year, when 800 seats were taken out in one go during a 48-hour gap between two shows.

Adam Knight, general manager of the Playhouse, said replacing the chairs was part of an ongoing “programme of internal investment” that has included new carpets, upgrading the bar and improving dressing rooms for performers.

He added: “It’s a massive undertaking to replace all the seats in the stalls, but we are very excited about it. The last time this was done was 1993 – but some of the seats in the theatre are original.

“The new seats will have extra padding, with more legroom and a new style of foam backing. The old seats have taken quite a lot of wear and tear. Hopefully over the next three years the entire theatre will have been totally re-seated.

“Prices to buy the old seats will start at £50 – they’re not going to be hugely expensive. The way they are being taken out will mean they’ll require a bit of putting back together again. But I think it’s fair, as people will be making a nice contribution to the theatre.”

The Playhouse has the largest seating capacity of any theatre in the UK, with room for 3047 people to pack into its sell-out shows.

Money raised from selling off its iconic red chairs will be split between Waverley Care and the Children’s Hospice Association Scotland (CHAS) – with 50 per cent of the funds also set to be pumped into the theatre’s Creative Learning programme, youth and community work and bursaries for young people.

Sarah Secombes, regional fundraising manager for CHAS, praised the “unique” fundraising idea.

She said: “We have a great relationship with the Edinburgh Playhouse and over the years they’ve done a tremendous job of raising awareness and support for CHAS.

“We’re really grateful for their ongoing support, 
especially through such a unique fundraising initiative. The money raised will help us provide specialised care to children across Scotland.”

Grant Sugden, chief executive of Waverley Care, said the cash would be a “fantastic” boost to the charity – helping to ensure the range of services it supports are kept up and running.

alistair.grant@edinburghnews.com