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Fit for a King?
King's Theatre (Glasgow)
Member Name: GuruOnAMountain
King's Theatre (Glasgow)
Advantages: Good parking and city centre location.
Disadvantages: Not the most comfortable theatre.
The King's Theatre is found at Bath Street (near Charing Cross) and is one of Glasgow's most famous venues. Glasgow, as a whole, is quite well provided with theatre and entertainment venues. From the Royal Concert Hall to the Theatre Royal to the SECC as well as many other, smaller venues in between, there is always somewhere to go to catch a show. Each theatre has its own character and tends to cater towards a specific audience: the Royal Concert hall tends to show a lot of orchestras and has a close knit relationship with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra whereas the Theatre Royal tends to play a lot of ballet. The King's, however, tends to focus more on musicals touring the UK.
I have fond childhood memories of the King's as I used to go there with my Girl Guides to see the panto every year (as well as stand at the stage door hoping to catch a glimpse or get a kiss off one of the actors at the end). Ah, the joy of youth! I also went to a lot of musicals here as a youngster but hadn't been back in quite a few years until last night's visit to see Spamalot.
The King's opened in 1904 and is still going strong. It is now operated by the Ambassador Theatre Group and has been since 2002.
Parking and Access
It is, from the outside, at least, a relatively small theatre but its central location makes it very easy to access via public transport. Just behind it there is a public car park with swipe card entry so you know that your car will be secure there. From 6pm onwards, there is a flat rate fee of £1.50 for overnight parking so if you're going to see a show and are arriving after 6, that's all you'll have to pay. Bargain!
I wasn't with a disabled person when I visited yesterday so didn't experience access problems first hand but I would imagine that it would be impossible to access any of the upper levels with a wheelchair. It is, as I said, a rather old theatre and I certainly didn't see any lifts. I would imagine that disabled visitors would need to be seated in the stalls.
The King's Experience
If you enter through the main door, I doubt that you'll be overwhelmed. It isn't a particularly grand atrium when you enter. It is pretty small and relatively dingy. In contrast, when you enter the Edinburgh Playhouse, you feel like you're having a special night out from the minute you enter the door. However, the staff at the King's are very friendly and you feel very welcome.
Last night, we were seated in the stalls. Our show started at 7.30 but we arrived early as we were driving there and had left a bit early in case of traffic. We ended up walking in about 6.40 so we had plenty of time to kill. The doors were open but the bar wasn't open yet and since there was nothing else to do to kill time, we crossed over the road and went to a cafe for a coffee before returning just after 7. The woman who took our ticket told us where to go but said that the doors to the theatre weren't quite open yet. Since it is a small atrium and then the corridor to the theatre from the atrium is relatively small and thin, it was a little bit cramped and busy with people waiting to get into the theatre. Luckily, the doors opened after a few minutes and we took our seats.
There were plenty of people selling programmes for £4 a piece and they were cheerful and helpful. At the intermission, there were, of course, the mandatory ice cream sellers (£2.50 a tub for Beechdean's ice cream or £3 a tub for a small Haagan Dazs).
Considering it was built in 1904, this theatre is laid out in the way you might expect. It isn't modern at all but the old fashioned style of theatre with the red, covered seating and the thick red velvet curtains covering the stage with viewing boxes at the side of the stage. I happen to quite like old fashioned theatres like this better than more modern ones (I feel like they are more atmospheric) but the King's is showing its age a bit. It has recently underwent restoration, apparently, with stalls seating being replaced but I can't honestly say I noticed much of a difference personally.
The one big niggle about the King's is the amount of leg room. Even in the stalls, the seats feel quite cramped. You are shoulder to shoulder with the people next to you but at least you have some degree of legroom in the stalls. Upstairs, however, it is very tight and actually quite uncomfortable. Considering I am only 5 foot and don't exactly need much leg room, I hate to think how uncomfortable it must be for anyone a bit taller. I have also been to see some shows where I was sitting in the gods and the view of the stage was actually obscured quite badly for people in the gods. When I went to see Jesus Christ Superstar, for example, quite a bit of the action happened on a platform that ran across near the top of the stage and if you were in some of the higher seats, all you could possibly see was some feet!
Also, each tier of seats doesn't seem to be raised enough. As I say, I'm only a little one at 5 foot so going to the theatre is always a bit of a trial if you end up with a 6 footer sitting in front of you but most theatres are laid out well enough that even if that happens, your view isn't obscured too much but last night I had a relatively short woman sitting in front of me and I still couldn't see over her head.
Is it worth it?
It is certainly handy for me as I live nearer Glasgow than Edinburgh but I would be reluctant to part with money to go to the King's if I was anywhere other than the stalls due to the discomfort of the upper levels. Last night's tickets weren't particularly cheap, either, although I suppose this varies from show to show. The staff are very friendly and helpful, though, which is a bonus but it definately isn't a particularly decadent theatre and doesn't feel as special as other theatres nearby.
Summary: City centre theatre in the heart of Glasgow.
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