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The King's Dome Commission

Designed and built in 1906 the interior of the King's was designed by J.D. Swanston, a Kirkcaldy architect with many fine theatres to his credit. The Kings Theatre is one of Edinburgh’s more famous buildings surrounded by traditionally refined classical properties in Edinburgh’s well known Tollcross area North West of the meadows...

Over the course of 35 days in the summer of 2013, the King’s Theatre was closed to the public for a very special make-over. The 42 metre height of the King’s auditorium was filled with a free-standing scaffold to allow access to the walls and the ceiling without damaging the delicate, listed interior for a major restoration of the decorative plasterwork. The main feature was the installation of a new centrepiece for the theatre, the King’s Dome Commission – an original mural designed by acclaimed painter and playwright, John Byrne.

Photographer Ron O’Donnell documented the entire project from the drawing board to the final unveiling of the artwork titled ‘All the World’s a Stage’.

This display presents a selection of Ron’s photographs giving a sense of the process of transferring the original design onto an 85m2 curved plaster dome, working at a height of over 42 metres above the ground. The design was then transferred to the dome using digital projectors and Laser measurement to locate, and outline the image.

Following scenic artist and project manager, Kevin Leary and his team of six, including John and his daughter Celie, Ron’s photographs capture the realisation of a major contemporary commission.

Ron O’Donnell is one of Scotland’s finest contemporary art-photographers, renowned for his work in constructed and narrative large format photography. He has exhibited nationally and internationally and is collected by eminent institutions.  Born in Stirling he lives and works in Edinburgh, and is a Lecturer in Photography at Edinburgh Napier University.

John Byrne was born in 1940 in Paisley and attended Glasgow School of Art. He is celebrated for his diverse talents as a fine artist, a designer of theatre sets and album covers, and one of the most notable playwrights of his generation.

Ron O'Donnell, Edinburgh Napier University

  • Image of John Byrne's original design
    John Byrne's original design about John Byrne's original design
  • Image of Composite panorama depicting the entire dome
    Composite panorama depicting the entire dome about Composite panorama depicting the entire dome
  • Image of Plaster gilded crown half cleaned shows the accumulation of dust and debris over the decades
    Plaster gilded crown half cleaned shows the accumulation of dust and debris over the decades about Plaster gilded crown half cleaned shows the accumulation of dust and debris over the decades
  • Image of Panorama of the primed dome, prepared for outlining
    Panorama of the primed dome, prepared for outlining about Panorama of the primed dome, prepared for outlining
  • Image of The original painting had to be projected onto the curved dome ceiling
    The original painting had to be projected onto the curved dome ceiling about The original painting had to be projected onto the curved dome ceiling
  • Image of Applying a soft wash similar to watercolour as a base for additional layers of paint
    Applying a soft wash similar to watercolour as a base for additional layers of paint about Applying a soft wash similar to watercolour as a base for additional layers of paint
  • Image of Using a ruler and brush to produce a star effect, on the flame-haired woman’s banner
    Using a ruler and brush to produce a star effect, on the flame-haired woman’s banner about Using a ruler and brush to produce a star effect, on the flame-haired woman’s banner
  • Image of Panorama of the dome with high resolution scanned prints, to represent the full scale image, determining detail and texture
    Panorama of the dome with high resolution scanned prints, to represent the full scale image, determining detail and texture about Panorama of the dome with high resolution scanned prints, to represent the full scale image, determining detail and texture
  • Image of Blocking in and adding texture and shadow to the theatrical masks comedy and tragedy
    Blocking in and adding texture and shadow to the theatrical masks comedy and tragedy about Blocking in and adding texture and shadow to the theatrical masks comedy and tragedy
  • Image of Showing the scale of the 57m2 dome
    Showing the scale of the 57m2 dome about Showing the scale of the 57m2 dome
  • Image of John Byrne with his design adds some touches to the face of the large female figure
    John Byrne with his design adds some touches to the face of the large female figure about John Byrne with his design adds some touches to the face of the large female figure
  • Image of Spraying clouds on the outer edge of the dome, giving texture and a soft effect in contrast to the solid figures
    Spraying clouds on the outer edge of the dome, giving texture and a soft effect in contrast to the solid figures about Spraying clouds on the outer edge of the dome, giving texture and a soft effect in contrast to the solid figures
  • Image of Final varnish, overall protective layer with four coats of emulsion glaze
    Final varnish, overall protective layer with four coats of emulsion glaze about Final varnish, overall protective layer with four coats of emulsion glaze
  • Image of Panorama of the auditorium, with the painting platform, and scaffolding
    Panorama of the auditorium, with the painting platform, and scaffolding about Panorama of the auditorium, with the painting platform, and scaffolding
  • Image of John at the end of the project relaxing with a cup of tea
    John at the end of the project relaxing with a cup of tea about John at the end of the project relaxing with a cup of tea
  • Image of Final image of the completed dome, viewed from the stalls
    Final image of the completed dome, viewed from the stalls about Final image of the completed dome, viewed from the stalls