Adam Smith Theatre: First glimpse inside refurbished auditorium

The doors to the Adam Smith Theatre closed in March 2020, but when they re-open, you won’t recognise the place.

The three-year shutdown will see the completion of the biggest transformation in the history of the building.

The £3m-plus project will change every aspect of the theatre to turn it into a creative hub that sits at the heart of the town centre.

It means the theatre will remain dark for a further 18 months or so, stretching its lockdown-enforced closure to some three years, but, behind closed doors, a lot is happening.

The view from the stage of the refurbished auditorium at Adam Smith Theatre, Kirkcaldy (Pic: Fife Free Press)

The main auditorium has already been given a complete new look, and that’s before the new seating is installed.

The theatre has been repainted, and now has a plush grey carpet, new lighting, handrails, doors, and LED lights on the steps- and the old red curtains which swished shut at the exits before every show have gone. A new sound desk has also been installed.

Phase two will soon get underway to transform everything from inside the front door up to the back of the Beveridge Suite.

The cafe and bar will have a new location, the box office will become a focal point of the foyer, creative areas added for people to share ideas, while upstairs will also look very different as the theatre aims to make use of every piece of space.

Adam Smith Theatre (Pic: David Wardle)

The Beveridge Suite will have upgraded sound and lighting, plus a permanent bar and kitchen.

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Kirsty Keay, director of corporate and commercial development, is at the helm of the project, and is looking forward to finally throwing open the doors in time for the 300th anniversary of the birth of Adam Smith, the man whose name adorns the building.

She said: “To bring back a theatre fully refurbished and upgraded is fantastic at a time when things have been so tough.

The refurbished auditorium at Adam Smith Theatre, Kirkcaldy (Pic: Fife Free Press)

“Not many theatres will have had that investment during these difficult times.

“When the building comes back it will be exceptional - it will have a real ‘wow factor, and not just for the town but for the whole of Fife and beyond.”

The aim is to turn a traditional civic theatre into a hub of activity that extends far behind the times when the curtain goes up.

Added Kirsty: “We want people to use the building all day every day - that’s the plan. There should be something going on every time you come in.”

Full houses won't return to the Adam Smith Theatre before 2023 as refurbishment work continues behind closed doors (Pic: Michael Gillen)

The theatre’s last major refurbishment in 1973 was to mark the 250th anniversary of the world famous economist and philosopher and cost around £200,000.

It too spoke of creating a cultural hub, and ensured the town had a place for what was, in all honesty, a rather dry sounding symposium in front of the great and good to mark Smith’s anniversary.

The work removed the original balcony, cutting in half the original 1000 capacity and creating the theatre which we knew up until lockdown.

The building itself has a history dating back to 1889, and the work has meant looking into every corner before teams of hard hats descend for Phase II.

It has also meant a huge operation to empty the entire building.

Looking down from the back row to the refurbished auditorium at Adam Smith Theatre, Kirkcaldy (Pic: Fife Free Press)

Added Kirsty: “Every single piece of furniture is being decanted into storage. There’s a lot to pack up!”

“Anything historic - and there are many amazing items - is being kept safe, and we will auction off the theatre’s seats for people to buy for their homes, offices or even their gardens.While that work goes on, the project team are working on technical details before finalising contractors for Phase II.

Working against a backdrop of lockdown has been challenging, but the aim remains to open for the big Smith-themed anniversary.

That will also mean a return for the local theatre groups - everything from KAOS and KADS to Fife Opera and Gilbert & Sullivan - which are very much part of the theatre’s fabric and its history. They too were all hit by lockdown as all shows were postponed across the country.

“The local groups are among our most popular attractions and part of our job just now is helping them find temporary spaces to use while the theatre is closed.

“We know people love coming to the theatre, and we want everyone can have that experience

“It’s important the space feels welcoming and comfortable, and all the small things can make a difference.

“When the building comes back it will be exceptional. We want to see our audiences back, and we also want to see new people coming to see shows and use the venue.”

Fifty years have lapsed since it last closed for a major refurbishment, and much has changed since Councillor Roy McNab set that ball rolling.

Back then there was talk of a tenpin bowling alley in the downstairs venue - Rankin Grimshaw, Honorary Treasurer of the town council felt such a sporting facility would be ideal for the old folk who already enjoyed a thriving summer league.

Half a decade on and council support is key to the project once more.

For Councillor Neil Crooks, convenor of Kirkcaldy area committee, the work comes at the right moment - “an exciting and timely intervention” - and he is keen to see the doors open in time for Smith’s landmark birthday.

He said: “The theatre has been a cultural hub for our town for many years, but was definitely dated and in need of attention.

“We want to produce a modern vibrant facility which will serve the public long into the future. That’s the task being addressed by officers and Fife Cultural Trust through this project and 2023 is the end point.

“The venue must be at the centre of AS300 celebrations and the potential fir significant local economic benefit in 2023 cannot be underestimated.

“Let’s hope the works complete well within the 2023 deadline as that would be such a relief for AS300 planners”

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Theatre lights all stacked up ready to be stored as Adam Smith Theatre begins £3m refurbishment which will keep the doors closed until 2023 (Pic: Fife Free Press)