The King's Theatre, Leven Street, Edinburgh
Above - The King's Theatre, Edinburgh - From a postcard posted 1907.
The King's Theatre was built in 1905 by William Stewart Cruikshank (See below) to the designs of J. D. Swanston and James Davidson, architects, and opened in 1906 with a performance of Cinderella. (See below for a review of the opening production.)
Originally built on four levels, the Gallery was removed in the 1950s and the Upper circle below was extended backwards with extra seats. The seating capacity is currently 1350.
Right - Auditorium of the King's Theatre, Edinburgh in 1999 - Courtesy Ted Bottle.
In 2003 the Theatre's exterior was refurbished (See image below) and this was followed by several stages of further refurbishment of the interior.
Above - The King's Theatre during renovation work in 2003 - M.L.
The Theatre was the subject of a £2.6 million refurbishment in 2012 which included constructing a new roof, a revamp of the foyer, extensive stonework repairs, a new box office, new carpets, better facilities for wheelchair users, and the ventilation in the auditorium was upgraded. The King's reopened in August 2012.
For more information on the history of the King's Theatre and for booking details of current performances you may like to visit the Theatre's own Website here.
A Brilliant Success - On the opening of the new King's Theatre, Edinburgh, and it's opening production of the Pantomime; Cinderella in December 1906.
The new King's Theatre, Edinburgh, built by the Edinburgh Construction Company (Limited) in Leven Street, had a most auspicious opening on Saturday night. A great deal of interest has been taken by all classes of the community in the erection of this handsome playhouse accommodation to the city.
Since building operations were begun in August 1905 work has been carried in with unflagging energy. A year after the start, Mr Carnegie laid the memorial stone, which now occupies a conspicuous position in the marble staircase, and Saturday night saw the successful completion of what must have been for all concerned a strenuous period.
Right - Advertisement from The Scotsman of January 4th 1907 for 'Cinderella' at the newly opened King's Theatre, Edinburgh.
The opening piece was the pantomime of Cinderella, produced by Mr Robert Courtneidge a well-known name in the theatrical profession in connection with this class of work, and himself, as he said in the little speech at the close, a native of Edinburgh.
All the booked seats had been taken weeks ago, and were at a premium, and for pit and gallery a waiting line formed earl in the afternoon.
The front of the theatre, brightly lighted up, and with the verandah adorned with hanging baskets of flowers, attracted a large crowd of spectators, who were marshaled on the south side of the street by the police. The theatre is certified to hold 2500 people, and when the curtain went up at seven o'clock every place was occupied.
The first impression of the house and its arrangements made upon the minds of the large assembly was of a wholly favourable character. The constructive lines are thoroughly satisfactory, giving as they do to the interior a feeling of spaciousness and freedom; the acoustics are good; while the eye is charmed with the artistic harmony of the decorations in rose and white and gold which alike under brilliant light and partial shadow, present an elegant appearance.
The pantomime itself gave great pleasure. Written by Mr A. M. Thomson and Mr Courtneidge, it follows closely the story of Cinderella, and the familiar incidents are developed in a series of scenes of much beauty and full of fun. It is, indeed, particularly strong from a spectacular point of vies. An elaborate opening wintry forest scene, where the villagers come to gather sticks and to indulge in a lively sabot dance, gradually changes before the spectator, under the influence of the wand of the beneficent fairy god-mother, into a spring glade of surpassing beauty, with a cascade of real water, on the grassy slopes of which several tame rabbits disported themselves with quite professional freedom. Here the dashing Prince first meets Cinderella, and at his al fresco luncheon the audience have assurance of the excellent quality of the comedians.
Left - The King's Theatre, Edinburgh during the run of Can-Can in 1956 - Courtesy Gerry Atkins
Perhaps the scene that most took the fancy of the house was that at the close of the first act, where "Cinders" is adorned for the ball. It might be described in popular painting phraseology as a harmony in white, in which the resources of the scenic artist, the ballet mistress, the costumier, and the stage mechanician have been combined to produce a spectacle of dazzling beauty.
The scene unfolds itself in a succession of happy surprises, and culminates in the in the entrance of the elegant little coach, sparkling with electric lamps and drawn by for tiny live ponies, which comes to take the now handsomely adorned Cinderella to the ball. It was received with a heavy round of applause.
In the fine ballroom scene, with the characters in 18th century costumes and white wigs, the colouring had piquancy and strength given to it by the scarlet coats and black ribbons of part of the company, while in the closing and more conventional "Fairy wedding," set in a Versailles-like landscape, where the chorus and "Supers" have the customary procession, the dresses, flower properties, and stage illumination also made a gorgeous picture.
It was a feather in the cap of the stage manager and the mechanicians that on the first night, in a new theatre, all the spectacular part of the entertainment went so smoothly - almost indeed, without a hitch. The musical numbers, while of pleasing character, did not on a first hearing strike one as being particularly "Catchy," but they were "worked" well by the singers and their assistants, while the dancing was a graceful and diverting type.
An exceedingly good company have been engaged, and as several of the principals have appeared before in the same pantomime in other towns, they played well together, and kept the fun going in a bright and spirited manner. Miss Phyllis Dare, of picture post-card fame, a young and popular recruit to the musical comedy stage, was Cinderella, and on her entrance received a very cordial reception. It said something of her ability that she was able to play up to the standard which this popular demonstration seems to exact, and to retain undiminished to the end the appreciation of the audience. She is graceful in deportment, speaks nicely, sings sweetly, though not with a strong voice, and acts in a windsome way - a combination of qualities which made her Cinderella a charming figure. Her best musical number was a song "Au Revoir," which was finished off with an attractive dance, in which she was also assisted by a contingent of the chorus, and by a dainty mite of a child in white satin, whose impersonation of Cupid was a pleasing little incident in the scene.
Mr Dan Rolyat, as the impocnious Baron, installed himself at once as a popular favourite. He made of the Baron an admirable comedy study, enlivened with diverting "business" of a quiet but none the less effective nature, and as an acrobatic dancer and contortionist he also scored. He was the singer of the tune of "Comin through the Rye," of one of two comical songs, which were well received.
Associated with him throughout the evening was Mr John Humphries, another good comedian, in the role of the Baroness. The two formed a strong combination, happily contrasted in style-Rolyat medium in height and with appropriate aristocratic air as Baron; Humphries tall and stout, and representing in costume and action a severely bourgeois baroness. Together they were responsible for a great deal of the fun of the evening, which was all of a legitimate character, and never transgressed against the canons of good taste. Mr Humphries catchword, "What will the Robinsons say?" was good.
Miss Violet Englefield, who has been favourably seen before in Edinburgh pantomime , made a dashing and hard working Prince, and sang pleasantly; and as the Princess, Roxane, Miss Gwennie Hasto made one of the prettiest singing and dancing entries of the evening - a song and dance. "Under the shadow of the Pyramid," with the lime-lights playing freely in which, among others, she was assisted by Mr Rolyat. It was received with much enthusiasm.
The two daughters of the Baron, instead of being given as usual to male comedians were entrusted to Miss Marie Rignold who did well as a stage-struck "intense" maiden, while Miss Bera Vere was more frolicsome as the other sister. Mr Stephen Adason, as Cloddles, the Baron's sole rotainer, was another energetic worker, whose acting, singing, and dancing were acceptably received. His "Irish Rosie" song was a decided hit.
Among the immortals, Miss Dorothy Chard, the clever young lady who recently played in the "Lady of the lake," was a pretty fairy godmother, and made the small part drastically effective. The chorus, attractively attired and well drilled, lent efficient aid, and more than a word of praise is due to the orchestra, under Mr Dunworth, for the satisfactory accompaniments and other music. The pantomime went so smoothly that it was all over about ten minuets to eleven o'clock.
There was great enthusiasm on the fall of the curtain and on its being raised again upon the pretty concluding tableau. Mr Courtneidge advanced to the front and was received with a round of applause. In a few words he thanked the audience for the hearty reception they had given the pantomime. It had been his ambition for some time past to produce a pantomime in his native city; and he was glad that they had thought it so great a success. (Applause.)
Mr R. C. Buchanan, the managing director, who was also cordially greeted, said he had received telegrams of congratulations from Messrs F. R. Benson, George Alexander, Beerbohm Tree, Arthur Bourchier, Martin Harvey, Edward Terry, and George Edwardes, and from Miss Ellen Terry. Miss Terry said - "Best wishes for Mr Courtneidge's production and for the future success of the King's Theatre." (Applause.)
Speaking on behalf of his fellow directors and himself, Mr Buchanan said that it was the most memorable first night in their recollection. They had all worked very hard indeed to make the building right for a date which was fixed two years ago, and they had succeeded. (Applause.) He thought it only right to say that Mr Courtneidge had worked under great disadvantages. As they were well aware the electric light was one of the things that could not yet be depended on, and the electric effects on the stage had not been so brilliant as they would be when everything was in working order. He could only ask them to take the pantomime of to-night as a specimen of what they proposed to do throughout the season. (Loud Applause.)
The Scotsman December 1906 - Press cutting very kindly sent in by Sue Dirk whose Great Uncle was William Stewart Cruickshank, builder of the King's Theatre, Edinburgh.
Mr. W. S. Cruikshank
Mr William Stewart Cruikshank, a prominent Edinburgh builder, died at his residence, 5 Westhall Gardens, Edinburgh, on Saturday. A native of Aberlour, Banffshire, where he was born 73 years ago, Mr Cruikshank was the son of the village carpenter. There were five brothers, and all were carpenters. Mr W. S. Cruikshank was the last survivor of the five.
He came to Edinburgh and founded the building firm of W. S. Cruikshank & Son, which was responsible for the building of Lemington Terrace, Viewforth Gardens and Terrace, Montpelier, Montpelier Park Road, Lauderdale Street, the Commercial Bank at the West End, the United Services Club, James Gillespie's School (then Boroughmuir School), and the Cavalry Barracks at Dunbar. For fifteen years the firm was engaged in building contracts in different parts of Scotland.
One of the biggest contracts obtained by the firm was the building of the Edinburgh King's Theatre - begun in 1905. The foundation stone was laid a year later by the late Mr Andrew Carnegie.
Text from 'The Scotsman,' Edinburgh, Monday 25th June 1928. - Courtesy Sue Dirk, whose Great Uncle was William Stewart Cruickshank.
Builder who became a Theatre Magnate
Mr. A. Stewart Cruickshank, managing director of Howard & Wyndham, Ltd., who was fatally injured in a street accident in Edinburgh, was regarded as the most powerful man in the British theatre industry.
Mr. Cruickshank, who was 72, had been personally associated with the King's Theatre in Edinburgh since the firm of builders in which he was a partner with his father built it in 1906.
The builders acquired the theatre when the syndicate for which it was being erected found themselves in difficulties. From 1908 Mr. Cruickshank was interested in the management of the theatre, and in 1911 he was appointed a director. When the King's Theatre was acquired by Howard & Wyndham, Ltd., in 1928, and added to their chain of theatres, Mr. Cruickshank was appointed manager. His Theatrical world, which had begun by chance, was one of the romances of the commercial side of the profession.
One of his most successful strokes of business was to secure the rights for British performance of the immensely popular "Rose Marie," which he saw on a business tour in the United States. He was reputed to have made a fortune out of that show alone.
He was particularly proud of the pantomimes which Howard & Wyndham presented at their various theatres, and he also helped to build up the successful summer seasons which his firm ran in Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Among the famous artists whom he promoted to stardom were Dave Willis and the late Tommy Lorne.
Royal Visitors at the Opera
Thursday September 7th 1950
The Queen shaking hands with Mrs. Stewart Cruickshank, wife of the managing director at the King's Theatre, Edinburgh, on her arrival with Princes Margaret for last night's performance of "Ariadne auf Naxos" by the Glyndebourne Opera. Lord Provost Sir Andrew Murray is on the right, and standing behinds is the Lady Provost, Miss Bodney Murray.
Image Courtesy Sue Dirk, whose Great Uncle was William Stewart Cruickshank, builder of the King's Theatre, Edinburgh. Stewart Cruickshank, manager at the time of this press cutting, succeeded his father (A. Stewart Cruikshank) as the managing director.
Theatre Chief Leaves £31,194
Mr. Alexander Stewart Cruickshank, the late Howard & Wyndham Theatres chief, left gross estate in Britain of £62,003. But debts and other expenses cut his fortune to £31,194.
Inventory of his estate has been lodged at H. M. Commissary Office, Edinburgh. It shows that he earned £300 a week in salary, commission and directors' fees. His holding in Howard and Wyndham consisted of 19,099 Ordinary shares valued at: £33,423 and 3,000 Preference shares worth £3,075.
He had £4,140 at current valuation in Moss Empires Ordinary stock. £387 in Stoll Theatre Corporation, "£209 in Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, £1,637 of the Preference shares of Associated Theatre Properties (London), and a directorship in each.
He also drew directors' fees from Stoll subsidiaries, the Coliseum syndicate, Manchester Hippodrome, and Stoll Theatre, Kingsway. Mr. Cruickshank's salary as managing director of the Howard and Wyndham chain was £109 a week. Commission brought him another £150 a week, and he earned nearly £40 weekly in directors fees. The estate will pass, after the deaths of his wife and daughter, to his two grandchildren. Mr. Cruickshank left nothing in his will to his son, Mr. Stewart Cruickshank, London representative of the company, stating he had otherwise provided for him.
Mr. Cruickshank died in hospital last December after being knocked down by a motor-cycle in Murrayfield-avenue, Edinburgh. He was 72.
Above - Advertisement of Howard and Wyndham Limited whose head office was at the King's Theatre, Edinburgh - Courtesy Sue Dirk whose Great Uncle was William Stewart Cruickshank, builder of the King's Theatre, Edinburgh.
Theatre Chief Leaves Estate To His Wife
The will of Mr Alexander Stewart Cruickshank, managing director of the theatre-owning chain of Messrs Howard & Wyndham, who died in hospital following a street accident near his home in Edinburgh, has been lodged in the Register House. Executed in September 1948 it leaves the life rent of his estate - the total of which has yet to be ascertained - to his wife.
Mr Cruickshank, who was 72 years of age, was knocked down by a motor cyclist in Murrayfield Evenue, Edinburgh, when on his way home from a pantomime rehearsal at the King's Theatre. Mrs Cruickshank was with him at the time of the accident.
To Mrs Cruickshank is left deceased's furniture, linen, plate, china, motor cars, garage etc., and she is given the life-rent of the whole residue of the estate. After Mrs Cruickshank's death, the life-rent, it is directed, is to go to her daughter, Mrs Dorothy Beaumont, who resides in Leeds. Mrs Beaumont is left her father's jewelry and personal effects.
Mr Cruickshank bequeathed the whole residue of the trust estate to his grandchildren, half to the children, if any, of his son, Stewart Cruickshank, the remaining half to the children of his daughter, Mrs Beaumont. They will benefit when 25 years of age.
There is no provision in the will for Mr Cruickshank's son, Mr Stewart Cruickshank, who is the London representative of Messrs Howard & Wyndham, "because he has been otherwise adequately provided for by me."
The press clippings on this page were very kindly sent in by Sue Dirk whose Great Uncle was William Stewart Cruickshank, builder of the King's Theatre, Edinburgh. Alexander Stewart Cruickshank, was William's son.
See also the Theatre Architects page on this site.
You may find the following pages from this site of interest: