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Edinburgh Theatre Chronicles: Playhouse Theatre

26th Feb 2021
Edinburgh Theatre Chronicles: Playhouse Theatre

The theatre – a place where we go to relax, unwind and be entertained. A place where we can feel safe; possibly laugh, cry and share a wonderful memory with strangers. But what if it’s not just the living who like to spend an evening at the theatre?

I’m Hannah, a storyteller with Mercat Tours and a long-time stage actor in Edinburgh. Follow me as we delve into some of Edinburgh’s most fascinating theatre history, and discuss some of the residents who likely never left. This month, we focus on one of Britain’s leading theatres and Scotland’s largest.

It is, of course, the Edinburgh Playhouse Theatre.

Seating over 3000, theatre-goers flock to the playhouse to see high quality performances and events ranging from touring musicals and plays such as Wicked and Les Miserables, to comedians like Tim Minchin and Alan Carr, even Riverdance and much more.

Having opened in the late 1920’s, there are just too many performances to list and too many events to keep track of… that is, apart from one. There is a famous spectre the Playhouse is home to that will certainly send shivers down your spine. That is the Playhouse's most famous resident, Albert.

Albert was said to have been the stage door keeper or a maintenance worker who suddenly passed away while alone in the building one night. Gareth Edwards, who wrote an article titled “Phantom of the Playhouse” for Edinburgh News, wrote “No one really knows who he was though. The grey overalls have led people to suggest he might have been a maintenance man or a doorman.”

Whoever he was, apparently he loved the Playhouse so much that he has decided to stick around. Relatively harmless, Albert likes to walk the theatre at night when it is deserted. His favourite haunt is the balcony and a room on Level Six.

While Albert mostly keeps to himself, occasionally he likes to give workers or theatre-goers a little glimpse of himself, or a chill to run up their spines. On occasion he has made more dramatic appearances.

Edinburgh Playhouse Theatre in the news

Liam Rudden, also a writer for Edinburgh News, spoke of an interview he had, writing:

“We were talking to the police security advisors the night before the summit when a call came over the radio. The police sniffer dogs had been in all night clearing each level for bombs. The call was to tell the Inspector that they couldn’t clear Level Six as the dogs wouldn’t enter it.

“We joked that it was Albert, but the freaky thing was that when we explained, we were taken seriously. The army dog-handler was called and Army dogs cleared Level Six.

“Jokingly, I asked if this was because Army dogs were ‘harder’ than police dogs... ‘No,’ came the reply, ‘but they’re based at the Castle so they are used to spooks and spirits. Put in that matter of fact way, it was quite chilling.”

Others have talked of times they lost their way in the theatre, and how a man appeared before them, claiming his name was Albert, before kindly sending them in the right direction.

When turning back to thank him, he was no longer there. Upon mentioning anything to staff, they will either chuckle or turn slightly pale.

Albert has made himself known around the theatre for years, and has become a part of its family – the theatre’s bar “Albert’s” is even named after him.

There are many other eerie incidents that have taken place in the Playhouse that makes people wonder if Albert is the only one who stayed after they passed, but I will let you investigate those for yourself.

Next time you are there to see a performance, have a look up at the balcony… Is there anyone there who looks out of place? Anyone looking particularly grey? Please do let us know of any experiences you have had.

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