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King's Theatre

James Davidson, John Daniel Swanston

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(detail)8.12.1906 | opening
The King’s Theatre was designed by J D Swanston and James Davidson. The memorial stone was laid on 18th August 1906 by Andrew Carnegie and it opened on with a performance of Cinderella.

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The theatre has an important high-quality interior with a marble staircase, and the then highly fashionable Art Nouveau style is used in the stained glass in the building. A particular feature of the auditorium is the stacking on either side of the stage of three tiers of boxes, in the manner of a Viennese opera house.

 

In: Acting with confidence. Scotland's theatre architecture. p. 30 ISBN: 978-1-84917-038-3.

 

The art of not disclosing too much too soon was well understood by Edwardian theatre architects. Messrs James Davidson of Coatbridge and J. D. Swanson of Kirkcaldy were canny Scots who tantalized their audience with dexterity. From outside, the King's in Edinburgh could be any sort of commercial building, an insurance company, for instance, but hardly a theatre - It is dour and solid, though prosperous, and is more suited to Glasgow's canyons of Victorian commercial acumen than Edinburgh's graceful propriety. Inside the main entrance, foyers and staircases mellow slightly into the good taste of a gentlemen's club - But once inside the auditorium! An Aladdin's cave of Viennese Baroque, swathed in all the plush and gilt of la belle epoque at its fruitiest. Delightful! Certainly, these teasers from Coatbridge and Kirkcaldy have not measured up to the professionalism of the old hands like Sprague and Matcham. The towering range of boxes does not really marry with the balconies; the outermost mask-holding term is buffeted on the hip by the dress circle, and the gallery cuts into the ornament on a pilaster quite arbitrarily. The sightlines from the boxes, particularly the uppermost, are poor. But what is lacking in expertise is made up in exuberance. This was the 'illiterate Baroque' against which purists in the next decade were to rebel and by their pedantry emasculate a wonderful world of fantasy.

 

In: Glasstone, Victor: Victorian and Edwardian Theatres: An Architectural and Social Survey. Harvard 1975 p. 123

 

 

Author: Victor Glasstone

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