Opened in 1904, the King’s Theatre is Glasgow’s house for touring musicals, dance, comedy and circus-type performances.
Occupying the corner of Bath Street and Elmbank Street, in the Charing Cross area of the city, the King’s Theatre has been entertaining the masses for more than 100 years.
The King’s initially concentrated upon musical plays and drama and in time introduced ballet, until the 1960’s, when the pantomime became an annual Christmas feature of the theatre.
Over the years many actors and actresses have graced the stage of The King’s. These include Sir Lawrence Olivier, Sarah Bernhardt, John Gielgud, Katharine Hepburn and Tyrone Power. The Jackson Five appeared at a Royal Variety Performance in the late 1970’s.
Designed by Frank Matcham, the King’s Theatre is a mix of styles, with influences of Baroque and Art Nouveau in red Dumfriesshire sandstone. A pair of two storey pavilions, topped with ball finials, stand near either end of the Bath Street elevation, one providing access to the main foyer and the other housing the scenery dock, which opens straight onto the stage. Originally a female statue stood on top of either pavilion, but these were removed during the war period to prevent them becoming damaged. Unfortunately they were subsequently misplaced, and have never been rediscovered.
The auditorium seats 1,785, with seating provided on 4 levels: Stalls, Grand Circle, Upper Circle and Gallery. Matcham was famous for his innovative style of cantilever construction of the individual seating tiers, virtually eliminating the need for supporting pillars. The King’s was no exception, with reasonable sightlines from most seats. Victorian and Edwardian theatres were almost always built to segregate patrons at each level, although subsequent modernisations often eradicate this. However, this has thus far not been modernised in the King’s, which still has separate entrances, some of which have traces of now disused pay boxes.
Work for the restoration of the King’s Theatre is now fully underway, with the intention of returning the theatre to it’s full former glory before the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014.