The Story of the Eden Court Theatre, Inverness
by Jim Love
The Eden Court Theatre, Inverness (Law & Dunbar-Nasmith, 1976) invited Jim Love, arts editor of the Inverness Courier, to mark the quarter-centenary of the Highlands theatre with a critical study; the result is one of the most discriminating individual theatre histories, written without editorial intrusion or the stage-struck flatteries that make for tedious reading in many other theatres’ chronicles.
The rough and tumble of nine years’ planning for the contentious 814-seat Eden Court – that is a combination of a new building adjacent to the 1878 Bishop’s Palace on the attractive north bank of the River Ness – is described in gripping detail. Simultaneously greeted as the town’s ‘prize possession’ and blasted as an expensive imposition for a small population of around 60,000, the theatre’s success has long since silenced the fundamentalist hostility of the Free Presbyterian Church.
Of course, Eden Court has had its artistic and financial tribulations since opening; but a succession of five theatre managers from Murray Edwards to Colin Marr has – with one unskilful exception – worked to achieve an overall progress, adventure and stability now unmatched by other Scottish touring houses. Unrestricted by competition from other theatres in the region – and, I suspect, luxuriating in the latter-day advantage of a location 175 miles north of the trespassing policymakers of Scotland’s central belt – the theatre has defied classifications of scale to attract the widest range of companies in all performed art forms, as an arts centre.
The 122 pages of text are splendidly illustrated with architect’s plans, models, portraits, press cuttings and publicity material. Friends of The Theatres Trust will relish Prize Possession, even if they have not yet been to the theatrical Elysium of the Highlands.
Photographs by Ross Adamson show the Eden Court extended in 2007, with a new second theatre, two cinemas, two dance and drama studios and three floors of dressing rooms.
Prize Possession; The Story of the Eden Court Theatre, Inverness ISBN: 0 9540859 0 6) is published by Eden Court Theatre, (£9.99), available from them at Bishop’s Road, Inverness,