Snoop backstage at ENO

The Coliseum

A couple of weeks back, we did the backstage tour of the Coliseum and I had intended to write it up but never got around to it.  And then I remembered I had some photos that I took, so I needed to do something with them.  Anyway, herewith the photos.  I can’t recommend the tour highly enough.  Compared to the ROH tour I remember doing a few years back, it was a much more relaxed affair and we got into all sorts of interesting places in the backstage warren.  I seem to remember photography not being allowed on the ROH tour, although that might have changed now.  It’s a real pleasure being able to flex your photographic muscles in an interesting building like this.

It was also an insight into the difficulties that ENO have in making the cramped Coliseum building work for them, when compared to the room for expansion that was available to the ROH under their refurbishment.  Without the ability to store a set from one opera on-site whilst another is on stage, lorries trundle several times daily from St Martin’s Lane up to Bromley-by-Bow and back to swap scenery between last night’s show, the next show and any rehearsals.  And there is only one rehearsal room in the building; the rest of the rehearsals happen in bars around the theatre, which is why (and I have always wondered!) there’s a piano in practically every bar.

There were interesting snippets on the history of the building, which as any regular probably knows was more of a theatre of varieties than an opera house, which explains the wide auditorium (and largest proscenium in London) with good views from practically all seats (even if some are acoustically more dodgy than others).  The canteen is now in what was the ‘triple revolve’, with central, middle and outer revolves that could turn independently, which was apparently a boon during the onstage horse-racing that was just one of the many barmy things that happened there in its early years.

Apparently, during the refurbishments, attempts to replace the infamously uncomfortable Balcony seating were blocked by English Heritage, who were keen to preserve one of the last remaining Edwardian theatre balcony seating arrangements… So when your back next gives out in the last act of Götterdammerung, you know who to blame.

The pics are more arty than documentary…


  1. Thanks so much! I don’t remember it looking so gorgeous when I went there in the mid-70s. Has it been refurbished? And lucky you taking photos! I’m going on the Met backstage tour this week and have already been admonished via email that absolutely NO photography allowed. 😦

    1. Hello – yes, it was ‘done up’ for the centenary in 2004 and the auditorium emerged considerably brighter and less gloomy as a result. New bars and circulation around the upper levels as well, I think. Enjoy the Met – we did that backstage tour ages ago. They started it with a welcome to Lincoln Centre: “The Supermarket of the Arts”… (And thanks for the comment!)

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