Dundee King’s Theatre Trust wants to provide theatre, community and arts facilities and activities to the community of Dundee in a city centre location. These activities include general hire for community use, community arts programmes, exhibitions and programmes of performing art including large touring shows. This building is of heritage and cultural importance and one of Dundee’s strengths is in its culture and creative industries.
Dundee King’s Theatre Trust have commissioned ACK to carry out this consultation to confirm the community requirements and needs related to the area and the possible redevelopment of the King’s Theatre site.
Please take a few minutes to fill out the survey online here.
History of the Dundee King’s Theatre site.
Designed by the renowned architect, Frank Thomson, the King’s Theatre was opened in 1909. When Frank was asked to design the building, he was living in London where he worked on another connection with Dundee, the Courier Building in Fleet Street – now the only remaining newspaper office in Fleet Street. The King’s Theatre itself was hailed as a marvel of architectural innovations. The two balconies had no visible means of support and the public were wary. Opulence was the name of the game in these days though and the Dundee public soon clamoured to escape their hard lives in the mills with an evening’s entertainment at the sumptuous King’s.
It was originally a top of the range vaudeville theatre, one of many in the city, with variety being the popular entertainment in 1909. Sir Harry Lauder performed there in 1916 when the owner presented him with his portrait in oils. In another Dundee connection this portrait is in the McManus collection. Will Fyffe also performed at The Kings starring there in the pantomime “Jack and the Beanstalk”. His signature tune may have been “I belong to Glasgow” but Fyffe was actually a Dundonian. The King’s was quick to jump on the cinema bandwagon and its main fare from 1928 onwards was “the movies”. It closed as a cinema during the war to host to live shows for the forces stationed in and around Dundee. Movies were a low cost way of making money but The King’s continued to take live touring shows until 1961. Up to then, The King’s hosted many famous touring productions. The Carl Rosa Company, specialists in and the Sadler’s Wells Opera and Ballet were regular visitors. The King’s also played host to a variety of touring shows and acts from the unforgettable children’s delight Peter Pan starring silver screen star Margaret Lockwood (Peter) and her daughter Julia (Wendy) to the more modern offerings of Cliff Richard and The Shadows. It also was the venue for more esoteric local amateur shows by such as the Dundee Amateur Operatic Society and Jean Pringle’s Dance School. In 1961, at the tail end of the cinema heyday, it was decided that a wide screen was needed and the stage was removed ending any possibility of live shows. It was converted to bingo in 1973 until that too tailed off in the 1990s and it closed.
You can find out more about the venue’s rich history on the King’s Theatre Facebook page here.
We will be running an event on Old Dundee and the proposed redevelopment of the Dundee King’s Theatre at The Circle on Friday 20th April. You can book your place at the event here.