PIN The London Coliseum
Enjoy and embrace the `People`s Theatre
The London Coliseum (also known as the Coliseum Theatre) is an opera house and major performing venue on St. Martin`s Lane, central London. It is one of London`s largest and best equipped theatres and opened in 1904, designed by theatrical architect Frank Matcham (designer of the London Palladium), for impresario Oswald Stoll. Their ambition was to build the largest and finest `People`s palace of entertainment` of its age.
With 2,359 seats, the London Coliseum is the largest theatre in London and has the widest proscenium arch in London (55 feet wide and 34 feet high). The stage is 80 feet wide, with a throw of over 115 feet from the stage to the back of the balcony and it was one of the first theatres to have electric lighting. It was built with a revolving stage which consisted of three concentric rings and was 75 feet across in total and cost Stoll £70,000. Shortly after opening the theatre was one of the first two places in Britain to sell Coca-Cola (the other was Selfridges)
The vision was to create a theatre of variety, in the largest and most impressive theatre in London and Stoll’s ambition was to create the largest and finest ‘people’s palace of entertainment’ of the age. The theatre’s original slogan was Pro Bono Publico (for the public good). It was opened in 1904 and the inaugural performance was a variety bill on 24 December that year. The original programme was a mix of music hall and variety theatre, with the grand finale – a full-scale revolving chariot race – requiring the stage to revolve.
The inaugural performance was a variety bill on 24 December 1904. In 1911, dramatist W. S. Gilbert produced his last play here, The Hooligan.
The theatre changed its name from the London Coliseum to the Coliseum Theatre between 1931 and 1968 when 651 performances of the musical comedy White Horse Inn started on 8 April 1931). It reverted to the original name when the Sadler's Wells Opera Company (having moved from Sadler's Wells Theatre) moved to the Coliseum in 1968. The Company changed its name to the English National Opera in 1974 and bought the freehold of the building for £12.8m.
From 16 June 1963 it became the second of London's three Cinerama Theatres, first showing the 3-strip version for the first 5 months, then 70mm single strip film was shown until 22 May 1968 when it screened its final movie.
It underwent extensive renovations between 2000 and 2004 and has the widest proscenium arch in London as well as being one of the earliest to have electric lighting. It was built with a revolving stage although this was rarely used. The theatre retains many of its original features and was Grade II* listed by English Heritage in September 1960. The design team for the refurbishment was RHWL (architects), Arup Acoustics (acousticians) and Arup (building engineers). The theatre hosted both the 2004 and 2006 Royal Variety Performances, in the presence of HRH the Prince of Wales.
The show we saw was great and the gave the building a chance to show off its impressive acoustics. We had seats in the upper circle which were ok but didn’t offer a full line of sight. Drinks are expensive but you come to expect that in theatres in the West End. We would certainly recommend this theatre and we hope to be back soon.
How to get there
The London Coliseum is easy to reach by bus, tube and rail.
• Charing Cross (5 minutes walk)
• Leicester Square (4 minutes walk)
• Covent Garden (7 minutes walk)
• Embankment (7 minutes walk)
• Charing Cross (5 minutes walk)
• Waterloo (20 minutes walk)
• 3, 6, 9, 1
- , Downtown Westminster
- , theatre
LocationLondon Coliseum , St Martin’s Lane , London , WC2N 4ES (View on Google Maps)
The London Coliseum