London Coliseum-Cathy Read - 61x61-cm-©2018

London Coliseum

Inspiring Stories by Painting the London Coliseum

A pink tower looming over St Martin’s Lane, the London Coliseum makes it’s mark, with it’s cagework globe adorning its tower. Behind, a deep blue sky fights with ever growing clouds. We can’t see anything below the first floor, but signs of London life prevail. Flags promoting the theatre adorn its front. In the foreground is a pub sign for the Chandos, suitably ornate for a public house in the centre of the metropolis.

The London Coliseum is a very distinctive building, with a square tower and sculptures in recesses. Above that is a rotunda sporting columns, more recesses and a further layer atop that with circles and alcoves. All crowned splendidly with a ball cage and the letters Colosseum encircling it. I felt they should move, like the Universal title does, but I wasn’t sure. A quick search found that the whole globe was intended to rotate but technical issues set in and it’s only recently operated as intended. You can read about it here.

Every time I look at it, my first reaction is “It’s very pink!”. A colour which I struggled to recreate. A landmark in the theatre district. It’s down in one of the quieter streets, not far from Trafalgar Square.

Built in 1904, the London Coliseum is the work of Frank Matcham, leader of turn-of- the-century theatre architecture. Very much of it’s time, it’s another structure where the architect just couldn’t stop himself! Decoration upon decoration, the current  thought “less is more” never occurred to him. Despite this criticism, I love it. Or is that because of it. It’s a building that distinguishes itself because of its excesses. We cannot but notice it besides the equally grand but less attention grabbing neighbours. I wonder how it was first greeted?

It’s a landmark in the theatre scene, not just visually, but it’s theatrical pedigree. How many greats of stage and screen have trodden the boards of the Coliseum’s stage? What performances has it seen? The headliners and the first timers; the dramatic to the farcical and everything in between.

How many performers ended up in the Chandos pub afterwards? The Colisum is a place where many stories were and will be told and one which could probably tell a few of its own, were that possible. If only we could glimpse back in time, like the proverbial fly upon the wall. What wonders and scandals would we see and hear?

London Coliseum-Cathy Read - 61x61-cm-©2018
London Coliseum -Cathy Read - 61x61-cm-©2018

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