London Coliseum

Nuggets – bite size chunks of London

London Coliseum

The Lon­don Col­i­se­um is a capa­cious West End the­atre on St Martin’s Lane. Designed by Frank Matcham (1854–1920) and opened in 1904, it orig­i­nal­ly offered a mix of music hall and vari­ety the­atre. Dur­ing the Sec­ond World War the build­ing served as a can­teen for air raid war­dens. After 1945 the the­atre most­ly staged Amer­i­can musi­cals and then became a cin­e­ma for sev­en years from 1961.

In 1968 the the­atre reopened as the home of the Sadler’s Wells opera com­pa­ny, which in 1974 became Eng­lish Nation­al Opera. ENO spe­cialis­es in pro­duc­ing operas sung in Eng­lish and com­pa­ny tries to make its pro­duc­tions afford­able and acces­si­ble to every­one – includ­ing offer­ing dis­count­ed tick­ets to stu­dents and under-30s in a scheme it calls ‘Access all Arias’.

With 2,359 seats, this is the largest the­atre in Lon­don and it under­went com­plete and authen­tic restora­tion at the begin­ning of the 21st cen­tu­ry. A stair­case planned by Frank Matcham was final­ly installed to his orig­i­nal spec­i­fi­ca­tions.

The Coliseum’s most instant­ly recog­nis­able exter­nal fea­ture is the globe with which it is sur­mount­ed. This used to revolve, but West­min­ster coun­cil put a stop to such friv­o­li­ty.

Guid­ed tours are con­duct­ed on sev­er­al days of most months, at a rea­son­able price. The tours – which have to be booked in advance – take in the Gentleman‘s Baro­nial Smok­ing Hall, Stoll’s Bal­cony, some pri­vate rooms, the Upper Glassed Ter­races, and the war­ren of stair­cas­es back­stage and under­neath the revolv­ing stage and orches­tra pit (when pos­si­ble). For more details, vis­it the ENO web­site.

Hidden London: Coliseum globe