Watford Colosseum backstage tour (17/09/17)

Watford Colosseum throws open its doors each year as part of Heritage Open Days and after missing it in 2016 we were keen make it along to one of the tours.

These were clearly popular as a few dozen were waiting in the lobby for the 2pm tour. After being split into groups, we firstly had a look around the the large lobby and what was the original entrance before the extension/restaurant was built. This now doubles as a performance space, and while a large and useful facility in its own right, it’s a shame that the building has lost its grand Edwardian entrance in favour of the side door leading into the modern annex.

The auditorium at Watford Colosseum.
The auditorium at Watford Colosseum.

Next we visited the auditorium. The floor seating had been packed away, which emphasised the scale of the room. Spotlights were being demonstrated and our guide explained how these were operated and how props are transported to beneath the stage. We then went up onto the stage itself to see how it extended much further back than the audience sees, and got a good impression of what it must be like to stand up there in the spotlights: a) you can’t see anything, and b) it’s scary! The Colosseum is renowned for its excellent acoustics, and many film scores, including Lord of the Rings, the Sound of Music and Star Wars, have also been recorded there.¬†There was also a historic¬† organ for people to admire (see pic below).

Caught in the spotlight!
Caught in the spotlight!
The historic organ.
The historic organ.

We then met a couple of staff who man the stage door and have responsibility for looking after the performers. We heard a few funny anecdotes before heading backstage into the dressing room area. These were full of costumes and other props (see photos below). While fascinating, the backstage area was perhaps less glamorous and more utilitarian than expected, with little to reflect the Edwardian heritage of the building. As it was a bit of a whistlestop tour, we didn’t manage to find out whether any of original features are still there behind the plaster and brickwork, or whether these have been removed by later redecoration/remodelling.

Our tour finished downstairs in a large function room. This high-ceilinged facility, together with the wide, dark corridors around the auditorium, still maintain an air of grandeur and help to generate that sense of hushed expectation you feel before a performance.

Inside one of the dressing rooms.
Inside one of the dressing rooms.
Another of the dressing rooms.
Another of the dressing rooms.

Various other things were taking place in the lobby, including singing performances and attractions for kids, though as we arrived late we aren’t able to comment on these, however they did look very popular!

Watford Colosseum

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