Massey Hall in Edinburgh is undergoing a major rework. The rector insists the plans will open up access and artistic opportunities for audiences, say leaders and supporters of the restoration. But what does it mean? An art-historical landmark in a centre of one of the UK’s cultural greats will see crowds descend in the summer, meaning hundreds of thousands will watch performances.
Renovations are expected to be completed by 2020. From what we understand the building will house non-Classical music performances as well as the regular classical piano recitals. Many performances will be simulcast across the city and to visitors further afield. “The stage, foyer and canteen will provide flexible use so the hall can be used by audiences, programme makers and sponsors.”
However, our drama-school and university student friends have yet to see any such scenes on their campus. So what does it mean for the audience? Entering the theatre is less likely to be a national landmark and a nostalgic fond memory (as standing outside Hampstead theatre in London once was) than the poster for the new ABBA musical Mamma Mia. Such a projection of the hall’s history seems an insult to a building as historical and vital as it is to the city.