coliseumLondon Coliseum in St Martin’s Lane theatre land was designed by architect Frank Matchar for the impresario Oswald Stoll and when it opened on 24 December 1904 it was one of London’s largest and most luxurious ‘family’ variety theatres – described at the time as ‘the peoples palace of entertainment’.

With a capacity of 2,359 and ticket prices ranging from £20 to £200 it remains a centre of excellence for opera (the home of English National Opera) and musicals, with both resident and visiting theatre companies. One such ‘visiting company’ were 26 members of Questers 9 and friends from other U3A Groups who were ‘entertained’ to a guided tour of the theatre.

With a charming and knowledgeable guide we toured all parts, from top Upper Balcony (‘the Gods’) to basement dressing room and The Green Room where the staff and cast relax. Of particular interest was the wig making and costume department and the chance to stand in ‘the wings’ and go into the orchestra pit. For some the opportunity to stand on the conductors rostra proved irresistible. As John Wilson no less was scheduled to conduct that evening performance care was taken to leave untouched the score of Porgy and Bess, a production some of our group stayed on to enjoy.