King's Theatre Dome

Scottish artist John Byrne lights up the King's Dome


In 2013, Capital Theatres commissioned renowned Scottish artist John Byrne to redesign the domed auditorium ceiling of the King’s Theatre as part of the building’s ongoing restoration and redecoration, creating a unique and beautiful new public artwork.


Byrne, equally celebrated for his paintings as he is for his theatrical works, has produced a vivid, colourful design which plays on duality, light and shade, the sun and the moon and features the opening lines from Jaques’ famous monologue in As You Like it   ‘All the world’s a stage’. Rich in theatrical motifs and references, the design was painted onto the dome in throughout July 2013 as part of the final stages of the redecoration of the King’s interior. It was first unveiled on Tue 6 August 2013, just in time for audiences to appreciate at performances in the Edinburgh International Festival.

John Byrne, explaining the genesis of the commission, says: ‘When my partner and I went to the King's to see the splendid West End touring production of The Ladykillers, we glanced up at the dome and noticed that part of it had been replastered (this prior to the  curtain going up on the play, I hasten to add) which made us wonder what was going to happen with it. You can imagine my surprise and delight when a few weeks later I was asked if I would like to accept the commission to provide a new design for the dome - I didn't even have to think, I jumped at the chance! Given that it's a two-minute walk from where we live and we not only stroll past it on a daily basis but we are regular theatregoers there, all I can think to say is "God Save the King's!’


The King’s underwent the first phase of a major restoration in 2012, its first refurbishment since 1985, which included replacing the stalls and dress circle seats, improving disabled access, creating a new box office and carrying out repairs to the exterior and interior architecture.  During the restoration, the domed ceiling of the auditorium, which had greatly deteriorated over the years, was repaired and replastered and now requires repainting.  As the remaining trompe l’oeil decoration of the dome is not original and was painted in 1985, this presented the Trust with an opportunity to commission a new design in a more contemporary style, that would become an attraction its own right and greatly enhance the King’s Theatre.


As well as a critically acclaimed writer for theatre and television, John Byrne who hails from Paisley, is a highly accomplished painter famous for his album covers for The Beatles, Donovan and Gerry Rafferty and his portraits of Billy Connolly, Tilda Swinton and Robbie Coltrane as well as a large number of self-portraits.  The partnership is particularly fitting given John’s long association with Scottish Theatre, famous as a set designer and the writer of The Slab Boys among others.

Duncan Hendry, Chief Executive of Capital Theatres comments: ‘As well as having written many of the great plays that have graced the stage at the King’s, John is a superb visual artist and a regular attender at our theatre. I can think of no one more appropriate to provide a beautiful and thought provoking design for the dome and I’m sure that audiences will enjoy his work for many years to come.”

Support the King's Theatre

Help us ensure that the King's Theatre is fit for future generations by donating today.