London Coliseum

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This article is about the London theatre in St. Martin's Lane. For the former building to the east of Regent's Park, see London Colosseum. For other uses, see Coliseum Theatre (disambiguation).
London Coliseum
The Coliseum Theatre
London Coliseum Theatre of Varieties
London Coliseum.jpg
The London Coliseum in April 2004
Address St. Martin's Lane
Westminster, London
United Kingdom
Coordinates 51°30′35″N 0°07′35″W / 51.509722°N 0.126389°W / 51.509722; -0.126389
Owner English National Opera
Designation Grade II*
Type Opera House
Capacity 2,558 seats on 3 tiers (4 levels)[1]
Opened 1904
Rebuilt 2000 - 2004, RHWL
Architect Frank Matcham

The London Coliseum (also known as the Coliseum Theatre) is a theatre in St. Martin's Lane, central London, built as one of London's largest and most luxurious ‘family’ variety theatres. Opened on 24 December 1904 as the London Coliseum Theatre of Varieties, the theatre was designed by theatrical architect Frank Matcham (designer of the London Palladium) for impresario Oswald Stoll.[1] Their ambition was to build the largest and finest music hall, described as the 'people's palace of entertainment' of its age.[2] At the time of construction, it was the only theatre in Europe that provided lifts for taking patrons to the upper levels of the theatre, and was the first theatre in England to have a triple revolve installed on its stage.[1] It is currently the home of the English National Opera and English National Ballet.


The inaugural performance was a variety bill on 24 December 1904.

In 1908, the London Coliseum was host to a cricket match between Middlesex and Surrey.[3]

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 a run of 651 performances of the musical comedy White Horse Inn began on 8 April 1931. It reverted to the original name when the Sadler's Wells Opera Company moved there in 1968. The Company changed its name to the English National Opera in 1974 and bought the freehold of the building for £12.8m.

Beginning on 16 June 1963, the theatre became the second of London's three Cinerama Theatres, initially showing the three-strip Technicolor version for the first 5 months, then showing the 70mm single-strip film until 22 May 1968 when it screened its final movie.[1]

It has the widest proscenium arch in London and was one of the first 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.[4][5] The design team for the refurbishment included the architects RHWL and Arup for acousticians and building engineers.

The theatre hosted both the 2004 and 2006 Royal Variety Performances. The theatre is also the London base for performances by English National Ballet, who perform regular seasons throughout the year when not on tour.

View towards the stage

Technical aspects[edit]

Owing to the constricted site on which it was constructed the wing space is limited, although the stage depth partly compensates for this. The stage is not raked.


  1. ^ a b c d KenRoe. "London Coliseum". Cinema Treasures. Retrieved 15 January 2010. 
  2. ^ Lloyd, Arthur. "The London Coliseum, St. Martin's Lane, London, WC2". Retrieved 24 October 2007. 
  3. ^ "When cricket hit the West End". ESPN Cricinfo. 2014-01-18. Retrieved 2014-01-18. 
  4. ^ It underwent extensive renovations between 2000 and 2004. English Heritage listing details: "Details for IoE Number: 426935". Images of England. English Heritage. Retrieved 28 April 2007. 
  5. ^ Higgins, Charlotte (15 December 2005). "The Guardian Profile: Martin Smith". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited. Retrieved 23 January 2013. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Earl, John and Michael Sell, Guide to British Theatres 1750-1950, Theatres Trust, 2000 pp. 121–122 ISBN 0-7136-5688-3
  • Glasstone, Victor, Victorian and Edwardian Theatres London: Thames and Hudson, 1975

External links[edit]