A legend's plea: Don't let King's curtain fall
IN a career spanning six decades, he has trodden the boards across the country, leaving countless audiences in stitches.
But for Stanley Baxter, the fate of Edinburgh's King's Theatre is certainly no laughing matter.
The 81-year-old comic legend has told the Evening News how he fears the Grand Old Lady of Leven Street could follow other relics from the golden age of Scottish theatre by closing for good.
Baxter, who first appeared at the King's in 1953 and is still remembered for his panto performance there with Ronnie Corbett in 1967, warned the city council against selling the theatre, which needs a 20 million revamp, into private hands.
Speaking from his London home, Baxter said: "I've just heard that they need 20m to save it and I pray to God the closure of the King's doesn't happen. It's such a beautiful theatre – one of the few such gems still around – and to say I'm distraught would be no exaggeration. Though I've lived in London all these years, the King's holds so many memories for me. I first played there in 1953 with bill topping Harry Gordon, a comedian who at the time was a household name throughout Scotland.
"I was back to play in panto in Edinburgh for the first time with George Lacey, an English comic who was toast of the variety theatres south of the border, and audiences in the Capital were always a sell-out.
"Some time in the 1960s, if memory serves me, (then owners) Howard & Wyndham wanted to sell and I begged them not to. Surely (this time) it won't be allowed to happen."
Mr Baxter believed that, if closed, it was unlikely the King's would ever open again as a theatre and feared it might suffer the same fate as another of his haunts – Glasgow's Alhambra Theatre, which closed in 1969 and lay derelict for two years before it was gutted by fire and demolished.
Mr Baxter, a Glaswegian, added: "The Alhambra was Scotland's most beautiful theatre and ultimately was sold to be converted into offices. I'd hate that to happen to the King's Theatre, as it's a national treasure."
Council leaders have refused to rule out selling the King's building to help pay for the 20m refurbishment, sparking protests from campaigners who believe the council should retain ownership of the 102-year-old building.
The council has pledged to put 6m towards the revamp, and any offer to buy it would only be considered on the basis that it is retained as a theatre.
A council spokesman said there was "no appetite whatsoever" to use the King's as anything other than a theatre venue.
Council leader Jenny Dawe said: "If approached by anyone regarding the King's we would consider it alongside other options.
We are currently exploring the full range of options for improvements to the King's with the Festival City Theatres Trust and this could include both private and public funding sources."
• Festival City Theatres website
• Edinburgh City Council website
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