Stars back bid to secure the future of the King’s Theatre

Elaine C Smith in the stalls of the Kings Theate, Edinburgh'supporting the proposed refurbishment of the theatre
Elaine C Smith in the stalls of the Kings Theate, Edinburgh'supporting the proposed refurbishment of the theatre
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A HOST of Scotland’s leading cultural figures have vowed to help secure the future of one of the Capital’s most historic theatres.

Actor Bill Paterson, artist and playwright John Byrne and author Ian Rankin have agreed to join a campaign aimed at raising £25 million for a long-awaited overhaul of the King’s Theatre.

The venue, which dates back to 1906, is expected to be closed for 18 months to allow the biggest overhaul in its history to be carried out if the fundraising drive is successful.

Radical improvements to its stage, auditorium, backstage areas, bar and cafe areas would be carried out under a blueprint aimed at preventing it from sudden closure.

Bosses admit some of the theatre’s facilities are in “dire need” of transformation if the theatre is to stay open. The first major overhaul of the building since the 1950s, when its upper balcony was removed, is expected to see it operate as a daily visitor attraction, with guided tours and an exhibition of archive material.

Panto stars Grant Stott, Allan Stewart and Andy Gray, and actress Elaine C Smith have also thrown their weight behind the fundraising drive, which Hollywood actor Brian Cox, who launched his stage career in Edinburgh in 1965, has agreed to spearhead.

Speaking during a visit to the theatre earlier this year, Cox said: “The King’s Theatre is a gem which deserves to be preserved. If we don’t invest in our theatre we stand to lose a vital part of Scotland’s cultural heritage and a theatre for everyone for generations to come.”

The city council and the Heritage Lottery Fund would contribute £5m each under a proposed timetable, which aims to see work get under way at the venue by 2021. The Festival City Theatres Trust, which runs the venue on behalf of the city council, hopes to raise a further £5m via contributions from theatre-goers.

Byrne, best known for The Slab Boys trilogy of plays and the TV drama Tutti Frutti, completed a mural for the domed roof of the King’s in 2013.

He said: “I will endeavour to do a good job as I love the King’s and have done down the many years we have gone to see a great many of the wonderful productions there.”

Rankin, who revealed last week that work is under way to bring his Inspector Rebus character to the stage, said: “I always enjoy my visits to the King’s.

“It’s a grand space where magic happens for all age groups. But like other buildings of its vintage, it would benefit from a bit of TLC, bringing it up to scratch for the twenty-first century.

“This is our chance to shape the King’s for future generations. It’s too good an opportunity to miss and I hope fans of the theatre from Edinburgh and beyond will join in.”

Rac C Nesbitt star Smith said: “It’s an honour for me to support the campaign to bring the King’s into the 21st century and to help make it the theatre everyone wants and needs it to be.”