One of Britain’s most opulent touring venues, the King’s Theatre has recently undergone a major refurbishment which has seen big improvements for the beloved Edinburgh venue, not least of which is the brand new seating which affords much more legroom and an altogether more comfortable audience experience.
The clean, fresh design of the modernised Box Office sits nicely alongside the Art Nouveau splendour of the original foyer, but it is the King’s auditorium that commands the wow factor; an Aladdin’s cave of Viennese Baroque, with plush gilt fittings and a glorious chandelier above.
The King’s was built in 1905 by Edinburgh builder, William Stewart Cruikshank with the millionaire philanthropist Andrew Carnegie laying the foundation stone. The doors opened the following year with a performance of Cinderella and the theatre soon became of national importance to the whole of the UK. With a long tradition of Variety and pantomime, stars such as Stanley Baxter, Rikki Fulton and Jimmy Logan have all trod the boards over the years.
Now the King’s is Edinburgh’s home of West End drama and quality touring theatre, ensuring local audiences have the chance to see some of the UK’s most prolific actors and best touring productions on home turf. Over the years the King’s has played host to some of the world’s biggest stars of screen and stage, including Sir Laurence Olivier, Maria Callas, Lesley Neilsen, Sir Patrick Stewart, Sir Ian McKellan, Penelope Keith, Simon Callow – and Sir Sean Connery even worked backstage here!
Not fazed by the regular showbiz dazzle, the King’s remains a community theatre at heart. Managed by Capital Theaters, which also runs the Festival Theatre, this beloved venue earns its place as ‘the people’s theatre’ by remaining committed to supporting Edinburgh’s long tradition of amateur operatic and musical societies, as well as playing host to the annual Edinburgh Gang Show extravaganza.
The recent major refurbishment, began in September 2011 and was completed in June 2012, in time for the summer’s International Festival. The work, designed by Edinburgh-based architects Smith Scott Mullan Associates, is only the third significant refurbishment the theatre has undergone in over 100 years. The first in 1951 saw major reconfiguration of the upper seating level, then in 1985 restoration work was undertaken in the foyers, the auditorium was redecorated, the orchestra pits were enlarged and seats replaced.
Funded by the City of Edinburgh Council, Historic Scotland and The Nancie Massey Trust, this refurbishment included a new roof and extensive external stonework repairs, redecoration of the main foyer, a new Box Office, new carpets in the main public areas, improved facilities for wheelchair users and better ventilation to the auditorium. As a historic building, the King’s Theatre is a constant work in progress and the ‘Old Lady of Leven Street’ will continue to improve and develop long into the future.