Playhouse boss says its strict Covid rules are not putting people off booking tickets as Edinburgh venue finally reopens

The boss of Scotland’s biggest theatre insists audiences are not being put off booking shows by new venue rules insisting on proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test as a condition of entry.

By Brian Ferguson
Tuesday, 14th September 2021, 6:15 pm
Updated Tuesday, 14th September 2021, 6:43 pm
Colin Marr is theatre director at the Edinburgh Playhouse. Picture: Andrew O'Brien
Colin Marr is theatre director at the Edinburgh Playhouse. Picture: Andrew O'Brien

Edinburgh Playhouse director Colin Marr said the venue, which has reopened to the public this week for the first time since the pandemic shutdown, had received “surprisingly little” negative feedback.

And he said advance bookings for high-profile shows like Beauty and the Beast and The Book of Mormon were better than expected.

The 3,000-capacity venue’s owners, ATG, have put strict reopening rules in place for all its venues across the UK.

The Edinburgh Playhouse has reopened with the hit Dolly Parton musical 9 to 5. Picture: Pamela Raith

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    Mr Marr said more than 70 per cent of audiences surveyed had expressed support for the measures, put in place under plans to reopen at full capacity.

    The Playhouse, which normally attracts more than half a million ticket holders each year, returned this week with Dolly Parton’s hit musical 9 to 5.

    They had to be signed off by the city council under guidelines which state special permission is needed for indoor events for more than 2,000 people.

    Mr Marr said: "We’re asking everyone coming along to a show to either show proof of vaccination or evidence of a lateral flow test. People can also do a 15-minute test here.

    “We’ve had surprisingly little negative feedback. Our surveys suggest almost 70 per cent of our audience are happy with what we’re doing and only 10 per cent are unhappy, with the rest ambivalent.

    “I think some people feel it is an infringement of their rights and you shouldn’t have to be vaccinated to go to the theatre, but most people seem quite happy when they realise you can get tested instead.

    “We’ve had a very positive response from our audience so far. We’ve not seen a rush of people asking for refunds or exchanges.

    "And shows that we have expected to do really well have actually done even better in terms of ticket sales.

    “There’s still some uncertainty out there. There’s got to be people who are a bit anxious. We’re a bit anxious as well. We’ve been closed for 547 days, which is a hell of a long time.

    “There will be people who will want to wait a few months to come back. But sales are pretty much where I hoped they’d be at this stage.”

    Acts due to appear at the 92-year-old venue over the next year include Nick Cave, Steve Coogan, Adam Kay, Marti Pellow, Jack Dee and Derren Brown.

    Mr Marr said: “There were definitely moments when we thought it would be difficult to reopen, but I never thought that it wouldn’t happen at all.

    “There was a point at the beginning of April when English venues had a date, which allowed them to start to plan in a way we couldn’t. We didn’t get an announcement until August 3.

    “All of Edinburgh’s theatres have become closer over this period and we’ve also become a lot closer to the government now.

    "We were a pretty unknown quantity. It was quite interesting telling the government how many people come to this theatre, which is by miles the biggest in the UK.

    "We said they needed us to help drive the economy because of the number of local businesses we support."