King’s Dome Mural unveiled

August 6, 2013 | By More

John Byrne mural brightens Edinburgh King’s Theatre

By Thom Dibdin

A flame-haired woman, clad only in a cloak of stars, with a black Harlequin bearing the sun, form the focus of John Byrne’s new mural for the ceiling under the dome of the Edinburgh King’s Theatre.

Unveiled by Byrne on Tuesday morning, the mural also features a bolt of lightning, marked with the words “All the worlds a Stage and all the men and women merely players”, dancing around the masks of tragedy and comedy.

The John Byrne mural on the King's ceiling<a href=

Saying that the mural was the work of his ‘unconscious’ Byrne was quick to agree when Duncan Hendry, Chief Executive of the Festival City Theatres Trust said: “There was no one more appropriate to provide such a beautiful and thought-provoking design and I’m sure that audiences will enjoy his work for many years to come.”

“That’s a very, very nice thing to say,” Byrne replied. Adding: “And it’s true. I cannae think of anyone else.”

At 85 square meters in size, the mural is Byrne’s largest work. It took a team of five, lead by Byrne and fellow artist Kevin Leary, all of five weeks to complete the translation of Byrne’s original design onto the ceiling. The work was carried out ten hours a day at the top of a free-standing scaffolding.

Metamorphosis
John Byrne and his mural. Photo credit: <a href="http://www.colinhattersley.com" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">Colin Hattersley Photography</a>

John Byrne and his mural. Photo credit: Colin Hattersley Photography

The first public performance where the mural can be viewed will be Contemporary Legend Theatre’s one-man adaptation of Kafka’s Metamorphosis, featuring Wu Hsing-kuo, at the EIF on Saturday 10 August.

The mural’s completion also marks the completion of a major refurbishment of the King’s which includes new seating, new carpeting, a new ventilation system and a completely refreshed and restored interior decorative scheme. The work around the theatre has also revealed some of the finer details of the baroque plasterwork lost for many years under layers of dust.

Born in Paisley in 1940, Byrne’s biography reflects his diverse talents. As well as being an accomplished fine artist – he attended the Glasgow School of Art – and a designer of theatre sets and album covers, he is one of the most notable playwrights of his generation.

His second play, The Slab Boys (1978) won him the Evening Standard’s most promising playwright award. In 1983 a New York production of The Slab Boys starred Sean Penn, Val Kilmer and Kevin Bacon.

In 1986 he wrote the immensely successful, six-time BAFTA award-winning television series Tutti Frutti starring Robbie Coltrane, Emma Thompson and Richard Wilson. This was followed by many other plays including Uncle Varick, his transposition of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya to the north-east of Scotland, which starred Brian Cox in the lead at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in 2004.

Details of the Byrne’s original design and images of the previous trompe l’oeil image on the dome can be found here: Byrne Paints Kings Dome. The trompe l’oeil image, which appeared to be open to the sky, was created in 1985. It was partially covered over with plaster in order to make the ceiling safe and left to dry out for six months. It replaced a 50s design which, itself, covered the 1906 original.

ENDS

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