Capital's King's Theatre to close for nearly two years for £25m revamp

The King's Theatre would close down for a 25 million makeover in September 2021 under a proposed timetable.
The King's Theatre would close down for a 25 million makeover in September 2021 under a proposed timetable.
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The King's Theatre in Edinburgh is set to close for almost two years to make way for a £25 million makeover described as essential to secure its long-term future.

The venue will be out of action for one at least one Edinburgh International Festival season while its annual pantomime will have to be relocated to the Festival Theatre and will have its run cut back over two festive season.

Plans to close down the venue in September 2021 are also reliant on nearly £5 million being secured from the Heritage Lottery Fund for the biggest ever overhaul in the 112 year-old venue’s history.

The King’s would not fully reopen until the 2023 EIF under the planned timetable, revealed days after the city council committed £4 million to the long-awaited project.

The programme may have to be put back by 12 months depending on how much funding is in place to help minimise disruption to the EIF, which uses the King’s for some its biggest theatre shows.

The annual pantomime, the biggest annual money-spinner for the King’s, would share the festive season with Scottish Ballet’s annual Christmas show at the Festival Theatre.

Radical improvements to the auditorium, backstage areas, bars and cafes areas would be carried out under a blueprint aimed at preventing the King’s from sudden closure in the near future.

Key priorities include improving access for disabled people, replacing the outdated “raked” stage, providing new workshop space for school and students, and creating new corporate hospitality spaces. The currently capacity of 1350 is set to be reduced by around 200 to move the back of the upper stalls to be moved forward.

If the HLF application is successful, a £10 million public appeal to help pay for the King’s revamp is expected to be launched in the autumn.Latest plans for the overhaul have been revealed as it emerged that both venues will be promoted as the “Capital Theatres” from now on.

It is hoped the rebranding initiative will help boost the fundraising campaign for the King’s, which have already won the backing of leading Scottish actors Brian Cox and Bill Paterson, playwright John Byrne and author Ian Rankin.

Duncan Hendry, chief executive of Capital Theatres, said: “We were hoping for £5 million from the council, but we can still make things happen with £4 million. We’ve allocated £5 million from our own resources, mainly come from a levy on ticket sales.

“The next stage is to put in the first stage of a Heritage Lottery Fund application in June, which we should know about by August. If we’re successful with that we’d almost be within striking distance.”

The King’s has played host to the likes of Noel Coward, Laurence Olivier, Maggie Smith, Simon Callow, Maria Callas, Ian McKellen, Rikki Fulton and Sean Connery since it opened in 1906.

A planned £14 million revamp in time for its centenary was shelved after the project was turned down for backing by the HLF and the then Scottish Arts Council.

A £2.6 million scheme to carry out urgent repairs, ensure the building was wind and watertight, and install new seating in the stalls and dress circle was carried out in 2012.

However a report last year for the city council, which has owned the building since 1969, warned that it was “in need of major development to bring it up to 21st century standards.”