Refurb gives extra legroom and seat width
By Thom Dibdin
Bums will be more comfy on the seats of the King’s when it reopens for this year’s EIF, after being dark since the end of the panto in January.
New seating for the stalls and circle in the council-owned building, new carpeting to cover the marble staircases in public areas, extra wheelchair access and a new modern-style ticket sales area are the visible results of the £2.6 million refurbishment.
External repairs have also been completed, as the convenor of culture and leisure, Cllr Richard Lewis, told the Annals: “The first part of the renovation project focussed on the roof and there were a lot of repairs which had to be done there. It is not glamorous, you don’t experience it but it is crucial. It was at the point where there were serious safety concerns if something wasn’t done.”
The new seating reduces the theatre’s capacity by 35 but individual leg room is increased by up to two inches, with slightly more width to the bottom area too. The seats, made by theatre seating specialists Kirwin and Simpson of Essex, are replicas of a “lazarus” style of seating which was popular when the King’s was first opened in 1906. The recently purchased child booster seats will still fit the new width.
In the upper circle, the front seats have been refurbished while the rear seats have not been been touched. A spokesman for the theatre points out that these are these seats have had much less use over their lifetime than the seating areas which have been replaced.
Under foot, carpeting beneath the seats of the stalls has been replaced with lino. This will help the theatre staff in cleaning up liquid spillages, although fallen objects will role more easily towards the front.
Conversely, the marble stairs and the circle bar area have now been carpeted. This will deaden the sound of any falling objects which could previously be heard in the auditorium.
While most of the work is designed to restore the theatre to its former glories and ensure its aesthetic is in keeping with the original designs, the new box office is a modern, slick affair. Instead of the box office windows there is an open-plan ticket sales area.
Without having sat through a whole performance yet, you can’t fully review the comfort of the new seats, but they are firm and the additional legroom is immediately obvious.
The front two rows of the stalls will be removable for a normal sized pit, with an extra two rows coming out for very large, but rarely used, pit area.
The only visible area which remains unfinished is the ornate ceiling, which has been replastered and is still drying out. Repainting – either to restore it to the 1985 design currently in place ,or with a new commission – is planned to take place next July.