There seems to be a degree of confusion about the origins of the building that now houses the Kings Theatre. There has been mention of a bacon factory and a furniture repository. The later having burned down, taking the life of a warehouseman, who supposedly haunts the building (every building worth its salt should have a ghost) More fanciful associates of The Kings swear he exists.
However, what is known is, after its reconstruction it became a Salvation Army Citadel. In 1960 The Salvation Army moved out of the building and into their new premises in Eastgate Street. The GODS (Gloucester Operatic and Dramatic Society) moved in and converted the building into a theatre, naming it THE OLYMPUS THEATRE with Dame Anna Neagle as their patron. The GODS remained at The Olympus, very successfully, for many years. Over those years, both The Gods and The Kings have applied many layers of paint on the psyche (back wall of the stage) and in certain lights the Salvation Army crest still shows through. Very reassuring!
In 1985 The GODS sold the building to Gloucester City Council and moved to the old Picturedrome in Barton Street, leaving behind an empty shell. At this point it could have been converted to another use but, The Phoenix Players and St. Barnabas Players (now The Crown Players) approached GCC and asked if they could refurbish the building as a theatre once more. GCC agreed and money was raised by the two companies to achieve this.
There were no seats. You can’t have a theatre without seats. A theatre in Blackpool was refurbishing and selling their existing seats cheaply. Volunteers took a lorry to Blackpool and in spite of the fact they were wonderful, traditional theatre seats they were in poor condition. “Not to worry” said the theatre in Blackpool. “In our loft is a hundred metre roll of the self-same material. You can have it for a pound a metre”. The deal was done and for eight months volunteers gave up every spare moment they had to set about refurbishing THE KINGS as they had decided to name it.
People who thought they knew nothing about upholstery, wall-papering and carpentry found they had a flair for it. Enough carpet from the Renault stand at the Motor Show (destined for a skip) was sufficient to carpet the auditorium and the dressing rooms. Prisoners from Gloucester Prison were bussed in (under supervision) to paint the inside of the building. Firemen from Gloucester Fire Station helped with painting the outside. Local companies gave time, expertise and materials to help complete the project and make the delightful, intimate, 144 seat theatre we have today.
The Kings Theatre opened in September 1987 with a production of “The Matchmaker” by Thornton Wilder. Finishing touches still being made to the building as the Civic Party arrived at the front doors. Sir Michael Horden agreed to be The Kings patron and on his death Timothy West and Prunella Scales took on the role. All these Patrons have come to The Kings Theatre and given performances.
This content for this section has been kindly provided by Jean Homer