Like every theatre across the world, Edinburgh’s King’s Theatre has been forced to close its doors to the public because of the pandemic. Whether you are a regular audience member or one who goes annually for the panto, the sense of awe entering the grand old red sandstone auditorium at Tollcross is the same. Since opening in 1906 the Grade A listed King’s Theatre is one of the most complete surviving Edwardian theatres in the UK, and one of the few theatres in the UK that has operated continuously as a functioning theatre. From its marble staircase to its Art Nouveau glass panels to its elaborate architraves, not to mention the stunning art work on the ceiling by John Byrne, the King’s Theatre really is a feast for the eyes.
Although there are no shows this year, the King’s has come up with a way to let the public see parts of the theatre normally unseen thanks to the creation of a virtual theatre tour. This has been realised thanks to Edinburgh based professional photographer Tom Duffin who said “The skills and techniques we’ve developed for immersive experiences was a perfect fit for the King’s. My family has been going to the King’s panto for four generations, so the challenge was to create something that was a cross-generational mix of nostalgia, belly laughs and surprising new discovery. What was a fantastic added benefit was the genuine enthusiasm from the King’s staff who revelled in telling their stories from behind, below and way, way above the stage.”
Areas of the theatre usually not seen by the public like dressing rooms and the orchestra pit will be available along with the more familiar aspects such as the foyers and bars. The tour will allow those missing the annual Panto to hear panto voices from past and present and see images of the old King’s as they learn theatrical tales from staff and stars. A paint frame at the rear of the stage to allow for the painting of backcloths and scenery – one of the last surviving examples of this in the UK – is one of the amazing things available to be seen.
King’s superlative panto baddie Grant Stott will take on a more benign role as he greets visitors for the start of a virtual 360-degree tour of the historic theatre. You’ll be able to see the site before the King’s was built in 1906 and how its future should look following a major redevelopment spanning its over 100 year history.
There is an opportunity to donate to the Capital Theatre’s emergency appeal during the tour.