Scotland has a number of exciting events, festivals and performing arts companies. It’s one of the best countries to see top touring theatre, or innovative and ground-breaking new shows. Not to mention it’s relationship with theatre traces back to Aberdeen in the mid 15th century! But there’s still quite a way to go to make theatre in Scotland accessible to all.

Jump to: Citizens Theatre | Dundee Repertory Theatre | Festival Theatre | King’s Theatre | Macrobert Arts Centre | Perth Theatre | Tron Theatre | The Brunton | Royal Lyceum Theatre


The stats on Scotland

According to the 2017 State of Access Theatre Report by Vocal Eyes, Scotland on the whole is falling behind other regions of the UK. It ranked 11th out of 12 for the amount of online access information its venues provide, where only 61% had details of access. 

It’s not all bad news though, as Scotland did rank higher than the UK average for the amount of venues showing audio described, BSL and captioned performances. But when it comes to relaxed performances, a shocking 5% of venues provided online information about them. On the whole, Vocal Eyes ranked Scotland at 1.49 out of 4 for information, which translates to the country having ”˜very little’ to ”˜some’ detail about access.

The leading issues of accessibility in theatre

Some of the key barriers in accessibility in the theatre industry relate to the lack of user-perspective. Director of Signed Culture, Stephen Hawkins, highlighted this issue in our Accessible Theatres in London piece. He exemplified in stating how many venues focus on captioned performances, without understanding that English is often a second language for some Deaf patrons.

Callum Madge of Access Scottish Theatre and Birds of Paradise Theatre Company claims that sometimes funding can be a barrier. He describes the theatre world as a ‘money-strapped industry’ where budgets are often tight. So it can sometimes be hard to implement the best practices for producing and scheduling accessible performances. Ultimately, making things accessible can be expensive.

Madge also notes that to improve accessibility in theatre, it takes a lot of willingness and ability to change at organisational level. He believes that scheduling accessible performances and making small changes are good, but something like having disabled board members or managers is even better in order to make these systemic changes.

“Programming accessible performances is good but they are just one aspect. Systemically improving the accessibility of an organisation (and wider industry) will be greatly helped by disabled people being represented at all levels. This representation will help challenge any attitudinal barriers that may exist.”

Callum Madge, Engagement and Office Manager at AST/Birds of Paradise

By asking the right questions, theatre organisations can consider accessibility at all levels. This includes front of house staff training, integrating BSL interpreters in the early phases of productions, making access information easy to navigate to online and more.

What’s being done?

There are lots of national organisations rooting for accessibility in theatre. Companies such as Solar Bear help create best practices and guides to advise theatre companies and venues. Solar Bear suggest there are a number of ways theatres in Scotland can become more accessible, with a focus on Deaf audiences. They recommend: 

  • creating accessible media
  • linking to BSL information on the first page of the box office website
  • detailing where the interpreter will stand before point of sale
  • giving staff awareness training and more. 

Furthermore, they advise venues to liaise with companies such as Creative Scotland, National Theatre Scotland, Access Scottish Theatre and more. 

Access Scottish Theatre brings together listings of accessible performances showing across Scotland’s theatres. The guide is produced by Birds of Paradise Theatre Company on behalf of Federation of Scottish Theatre. It’s is also funded by Creative Scotland. Informative and easy-to-use, patrons can search performances by their accessibility needs, while also gathering some information on venues and physical access to buildings. 

“Access Scottish Theatre is an online and print listings platform where disabled users can search and discover accessible performances. It works as a bridge between venues and users by collecting information about accessible shows across Scotland in one place.”

Callum Madge, Engagement and Office Manager at AST/Birds of Paradise

Madge states there is still a long way to go, but awareness of accessibility is definitely better in the theatre industry today. More companies are making bigger commitments, such as the National Theatre of Scotland promising to schedule BSL performances for every show they produce. There’s also more small-scale touring theatre companies creating accessible performances. Fortunately, accessibility does seem to be gaining force in Scotland.

Access Scottish Theatre currently works with various Partner Venues, which in conjunction with the results of the Vocal Eyes Survey and recommendations on Euan’s Guide, help inform TickX’s list of accessible theatres in Scotland.


Accessible theatres in Scotland

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow

Citizens Theatre is one of Scotland's accessible theatres

Both a venue and theatre company, Citizens Theatre is a leading source of entertainment in Glasgow. They proudly get involved in all the creative elements of shows, designing and making their own costumes and set. The team work with some of the best writers, directors and organisations around to deliver a great mix of theatre to its community. 

The theatre first opened in 1878. Having surpassed over a century of producing shows, the building is now closed for refurbishment. It’s due to open in 2020 with many changes. These include restoring the infamous statues or ‘muses’ of comedy, tragedy, drama etc. to the front of the theatre. The refurbishment is also in place to improve the accessibility of Citizens Theatre.

It’s not just physical accessibility that is important to Citizens – evident through their range of clubs. They hold a Deaf Theatre Club, a Friday Club for those with a learning disability who want to develop performance skills, and Saturday Citizens, for those with a learning disability aged between 14-18 years.

Many participants have expressed positive feelings at being involved in their clubs.

“I feel I have a purpose in life again. I used to spend days at home or in bed, just being about the house. But now I come here I’m getting out for a wee while and it makes me feel good. Before this I was a prisoner in my own home for three and half years.”

Participant of Friday Club

Citizens Theatre also show a relaxed performance of their Christmas show annually, which includes adjustments to sound and lighting, freedom to move around and trained staff at hand.

  • Accessible toilets on all levels (plans in place to include a Changing Places toilet)
  • Captioned performances
  • Audio Described performances
  • BSL performances
  • Relaxed performances
  • Auditorium loop
  • Level access to all areas
  • Lift to all floors
  • Plans in place to include handrail signage

Dundee Repertory Theatre

Dundee Repertory Theatre is an accessible venue in Scotland

”˜The Rep’ has been at the core of Dundee’s performing arts scene since the late 1930’s. It rests in Tay Square in the city’s West End (yes in Dundee and no, not the London one). The purpose built art space hosts a fantastic mix of dance and theatre productions. It also houses the Dundee Rep Ensemble and the Scottish Dance Theatre, making it a hub of uber talented artists.

It seeks to be a space that welcomes everyone, which they state includes people with sensory learning and communication conditions. They work alongside the National Autistic Society (NAS) to create theatre opportunities for young people with autism. Alongside programming efforts, the building is also considered quite accessible. It has a five star review on Euan’s Guide which claims the Rep is suitable for wheelchair users, along with accessible toilets and lifts to all areas.

  • Visual story available online and via PDF
  • Captioned performances
  • Audio Described performances
  • BSL performances
  • Relaxed performances
  • Infra-Red System
  • Large-Print/Audio/Braille season brochure
  • Touch tours
  • Full wheelchair access throughout theatre

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

Festival Theatre - photo credit Phil Wilkinson

Festival Theatre arguably has the most impressive theatre history in the country. The likes of Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, and even David Bowie have stumbled upon the site. Not only is Festival Theatre the longest continuous theatre site in Edinburgh, but it’s also the largest performance area in Scotland.

When it comes to accessibility, Festival Theatre is also gaining a reputation. It averages at 4.7 out of 5 on reviews on Euan’s Guide, particularly due to the helpful staff and the building’s physical access.

Audio describer, Irene MacKenzie also praises the Festival Theatre, along with the King’s, as being the most accessible in Scotland. She explains that Capital Theatres, who manage the two venues, always assume every show will be described, signed and captioned. Capital Theatres also received a three-year award from Life Changes Trusts to showcase their efforts of raising awareness for theatre-goers with dementia. Their efforts have bolstered a Dementia Friendly Community at the Festival Theatre.

“We have been working hard for a number of years to ensure we meet and exceed standards on accessibility.

We do a lot of work in our Learning & Participation programme to support access to the arts for all, and we’ve made significant adjustments to our building to make sure it’s an easy to access, welcoming and supportive environment for any customers with additional support needs.”

Catherine Bromely, Head of Press and Communications
  • Captioned performances
  • Audio Described performances
  • BSL performances
  • Relaxed performances
  • Sennheiser Infra-Red System
  • Sennheiser personal loop system
  • Accessible toilets
  • Touch tours
  • Dog-sitting service
  • Wheelchair hire
  • Braille, audio and large text brochures available
  • Accessible website

King’s Theatre, Edinburgh

Kings Theatre in Edinburgh, Scotland

The King’s Theatre in Edinburgh is also managed by Capital Theatres. Similarly to Festival Theatre, King’s also has a rather rich theatre history. Laurence Olivier and Ian McKellen have performed there while Sean Connery even worked backstage! It brings in top musicals from the West End, along with some of today’s most recognisable faces from the stage.

While the stunning Edwardian auditorium and range of extravagant shows screams luxury, King’s Theatre has its roots as a community theatre. This means having a strong stance on accessibility. The Capital Theatre Group work closely with the Dementia Community, as well as teams of BSL signers and audio describers. By working with Artlink, the theatre also provides a volunteer companion service for anyone with difficulty attending shows.

The building has some access issues due to its age. However, it offers level access through the box office and accessible toilets close to the stalls and box office. Furthermore, the stage is quite low to allow for better viewing for wheelchair users sitting close to the front.

  • Captioned performances
  • Audio Described performances
  • BSL performances
  • Relaxed performances
  • Sennheiser Infra-Red System
  • Sennheiser personal loop system
  • Accessible toilets
  • Touch tours
  • Dog-sitting service
  • Wheelchair hire
  • Braille, audio and large text brochures available
  • Accessible website
  • Volunteer companion service

Macrobert Arts Centre, Stirling

Macrobert Centre is accessible

Within the main campus of the University of Stirling lies this dynamic performing arts venue. The Macrobert Arts Centre hosts comedy, dance, live music, films art exhibitions and theatre. It opened in 1971 as the first purpose-built arts centre in the country, born out of former university principal Tom Cottrell’s wish to put the arts at the core of the university’s cultural ethos.

Beyond being a great place of entertainment for young people, the centre is also one of Scotland’s accessible theatres.

“At Macrobert Arts Centre we’re really passionate about accessibility for everyone. This is part of everything we do, from programming and scheduling to marketing and updates to the fabric of our building.

We’ve been working on improving accessibility over the past couple of years and are proud of the projects in place. One of the improvements includes the installation of one of three Changing Places toilets in Stirling. This helps those with multiple disabilities to enjoy their visit with comfort and dignity.

Our New Creative Voices project is another highlight, which takes drama and dance workshops out to the community. It allows us to reach those who’d otherwise be unlikely to make it to our venue.

We’ve been working with local partners in ‘Our Connected Neighbourhoods’ to promote accessibility to those living with dementia. We’ve also worked with Deaf artist Peter Dobre, Scotland’s first BSL Director Trainee. This has allowed us to increase our support to Deaf artists and audience members.”

Kathryn Welch, Operations Director

The theatre also extends its approach to accessibility to those who face financial barriers. The Macrobert Arts Centre launched a ‘pay what you can’ scheme for films. They also donate 800 free tickets to their Christmas panto to those who wouldn’t be able to attend.

Currently, the centre is increasing the number of blue badge parking spaces next to the entrance. There’s also a familiarisation video and a BSL welcome video for those wanting more support and pre-visit information.

  • Captioned performances
  • Audio Described performances
  • BSL performances
  • Relaxed performances
  • 3 Accessible toilets (inc Changes Places toilet)
  • Touch tours
  • Accessible website
  • Wheelchair hire
  • Sennheiser Infra-Red loops

Perth Theatre

Perth Theatre in Scotland

Perth Theatre is a historic landmark in the country. It dates back to the beginning of the 20th century, extending and expanding over the years. Now well over a century old, Perth Theatre has witnessed many big performances and seen huge stars perform. Ewan McGregor, Alec Guinness and Edward Woodward are just a few famous names from Perth’s legacy.

Despite being one of Scotland’s oldest theatres, it’s also accessible thanks to major restoration and redevelopments. It reopened in 2017, with increased workshop spaces and better facilities. The Perth Theatre now has level access for the first time as well as accessible toilets on each floor.

  • Audio Described performances
  • BSL performances
  • Relaxed performances
  • FM hearing system
  • Induction Loop
  • Infra-Red Enhanced Hearing
  • Lift access to all floors
  • Accessible toilets on all floors
  • Level street access
  • Touch tours
  • Audio brochures available

Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Tron Theatre in Scotland

Home to the Tron Theatre Company, the venue is a great place in Glasgow to catch home-grown productions. Inside, there are three performance areas that constantly keep the programme exciting and changing. Tron Theatre promotes a mix of national, UK and World premieres, focusing on fresh theatre and new voices. This has garnered the venue recognition and respect across the Scottish theatre scene and beyond.

Tron Theatre claims to be committed to being and accessible theatre of Scotland. It has accessible facilities such as ramps, lifts, adapted toilets and more. As a producing theatre, Callum Madge of Access Scottish Theatre claims Tron integrate accessibility from the start. He also notes they worked with his organisation to ensure staff had sufficient accessibility training to best help their customers.

  • Audio Described performances
  • BSL performances
  • Captioned performances
  • Level access
  • Infra-Red Loop System
  • Accessible toilets
  • Touch tours
  • Large print brochures available

The Brunton, Musselburgh

Brunton Theatre

The Brunton is a vibrant, multi-disciplinary space to watch music, theatre, dance, comedy, film and more. It’s also one of the participating venues for the renowned Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Located within Brunton Hall, The Brunton is surrounded by council offices. However, inside it’s nothing but the arts. The range of versatile spaces and modern facilities mean it can cater to any kind of event.

Having recently been refurbished, the theatre is also now among the most accessible in Scotland. Their website claims The Brunton and its programming are designed with accessibility in mind. The building has lifts to all levels and accessible toilets on both floors. The Front of House team are also trained in order to offer assistance for additional needs.

Not to mention, The Brunton is one of Access Scottish Theatre’s partner venues. According to the AST site, the theatre’s resident company Catherine Wheels produce lots of accessible shows too.

  • Audio Described performances
  • BSL performances
  • Captioned performances
  • Relaxed performances
  • Level access
  • Infra-Red and Loop System
  • Accessible toilets
  • Touch tours
  • Large print brochures available

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh

Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh

Also referred to as ‘the old lady of Grindlay Street’, the stunning Victorian theatre dates back to 1883. It’s a blend between traditional and classic, and intimate and informal. Visitors can marvel at the dazzling chandeliers and ornate plasterwork while also getting up close and personal to performers.

The Royal Lyceum Theatre is not only known as a top producing venue, but it’s also recognised as one of Scotland’s accessible theatres. Reviews on Euan’s Guide are generally positive, describing helpful information, friendly staff and great touch tours. All Front of House staff receive awareness training to help link users with practical facilities.

The Lyceum also state that for each of the shows in the season, there are two audio-described, one captioned and one BSL performance. The dedication of ensuring each show has an accessible performance is rare, but more than welcomed. These performances are also very easy to navigate to and book tickets through their accessibility page.

  • Audio Described performances
  • BSL performances
  • Captioned performances
  • Relaxed performances
  • Street level access to foyer and restaurant
  • Lift to all levels
  • Infra-Red and Loop System
  • Accessible toilets
  • Touch tours
  • Wheelchair hire
  • Large print/ audio and Braille brochures available

TickX are always open to hearing your thoughts as to which venues you think should be considered one of Scotland’s accessible theatres. Feel free to drop us an email at hello@tickx.co.uk

To find out what’s coming up in theatres near you, visit our what’s on – theatre page for shows and tickets.