Eden Court Theatre

Eden Court Theatre (before refurbishment), Inverness
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Eden Court Theatre (before refurbishment), Inverness

Located on Bishops Road on the west bank of the River Ness, a quarter-mile (0.5 km) southwest of the centre of Inverness, the Eden Court Theatre is the most significant cultural and entertainment venue in the Highlands. The complex includes a 850-seat main auditorium - referred to as the Empire Theatre - and a 270-seat studio theatre, together with two state-of-the-art cinemas (seating audiences of 140 and 86 respectively), and two dance and drama studios. There is also a restaurant and two cafe-bars.

Built 1973-76 as a series of black flint-aggregate-faced concrete and glass hexagons, the theatre is named after the Victorian former palace of the Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness, which now forms part of the theatre complex. The architects were Graham Law and James Dunbar-Nasmith (b.1929), who had visited every theatre in Britain - at their own expense - to gather ideas for the project. The building was A-listed in 2004. A £23 million refurbishment executed 2005-07 by Glasgow-based architects Page & Park has modernised, expanded and revitalised all aspects of the building. The particular challenge was connecting the new elements to the old without compromising a listed building. The result is a confident statement in glass, steel and bold colours, with a series of commissioned artworks integrated into the design.

The building benefits from a passive ventilation system, the first of its kind in Scotland. The prominent wind-towers, which are part of this system, have been incorporated into the art installation Lined Sky Forms by Donald Urquhart.

Inverness Town Council's decision to built the theatre was highly controversial at the time and even more so once the costs escalated to three times the original budget of £600,000. The theatre is now owned by Highland Council.

The old Bishop's Palace once accommodated dressing rooms, a cinema, a green-room and offices for the original theatre. As part of the new scheme it has been possible to restore the architectural features of the Palace and open it to the public.

Eden Court hosts an education and outreach programme, which provides drama and dance-based tuition for young people throughout the region. Launched in 1995, it is now one of the most extensive theatre-based arts education programmes in the country.

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