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<<  -- 2 --  Robert Hugill    WHITE, GOLD AND MARBLE

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Afterwards there was copious wine and canapés on offer and we had an opportunity to explore the theatre. We spotted people as diverse as Sheila Hancock, Jude Kelly, John Tomlinson, Toby Spence, Sir Simon Jenkins, Gayle Hunnicott, Turner Prize winner Grayson Perry (dressed as his alter-ego Claire), Peter and Virginia Bottomley. The company, from Paul Daniels and Seán Doran downwards were mingling with everyone.

It is indicative of the need for the project that, despite increasing the circulation space by forty percent, the foyers could only just cope with the full house. The whole building has been comprehensively overhauled. In the basement, the Dutch Bar has been restored (though some regulars complained that the tapestries have been replaced by mirrors). There is a new staircase up from the Dutch Bar to the circulation space behind the stalls. This had been intended by Matcham but was never built. The stalls circulation space has been improved and restored by moving the bars. There is a new box office and the entrance foyer includes the old box office, providing a link to the old staircase up to the Balcony. This has been rationalised, thus providing two ways up the building from the Entrance foyer. In the speeches much emphasis was placed on the fact that everyone now enters from the front. In the upper circle, the terrace bar, now re-christened the Sky bar, has a spectacular glass roof, a modern version of Matcham's original which was removed after war damage. This bar leads up to the Balcony bar thus uniting all parts of the Theatre. On the outside the ironwork on the front has been restored, as have the myriad terracotta statues on the tower. And at long last the ball atop the tower actually rotates.

Terracotta statues and the rotating ball at the top of the London Coliseum. Photo © Grant Smith
Terracotta statues and the rotating ball at the top of the London Coliseum. Photo © Grant Smith

In the auditorium, Matcham's colour scheme of white, gold and much marble, has been revealed. All over the theatre, where Matcham's work has survived it has been restored without any of the previous generation's embarrassment at its exuberant colour scheme. The result is handsome and my only complaint is that no solution has been bound for the lighting rigs which still mar the front of the dress circle.

The newly restored auditorium at the London Coliseum. Photo © Grant Smith
The newly restored auditorium at the London Coliseum. Photo © Grant Smith

The architects have created a fascinating new/old theatre and I look forward very much to returning and seeing how the building works over when the company resumes regular performances

Copyright © 26 February 2004 Robert Hugill, London UK

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ENGLISH NATIONAL OPERA

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