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Colosseum Theatre
Central, Johannesburg, Gauteng

Percy ROGERS COOKE: Architect
REID and KNUCKEY (PTY) LTD: Contractor
Harold Wolseley SPICER: Architect
William Mitcheson TIMLIN: Architect

Street:134-40 Commissioner St

Demolished 1985

Photograph of the Colosseum at night sent to us by William MARTINSON and the corner view (left) sent by Gillian McKay, daughter of P ROGERS COOKE.

(SAB Jun 1931:47, proposed building; SAB Sep 1931:35, substructure; SAB Mar 1932:41 tend; AB&E Sep 1933:8, 41; AB&E Oct 1933:37-40 ill; AB&E Nov 1933:7; exhib SA Acad 1933, perspective dwg; SAAR Jan 1934:2-8, xi, xii ill, opened by Rt Hon Genl Smuts 4 Oct 1933)


The site of the Colosseum Theatre is the only "island site" in the city of Johannesburg. The frontage to Commissioner Street and Fox Street is two hundred and seven feet (63.09m), and to the side streets one hundred and forty-five (44.2m).

This depth presented some difficulties to the designers when seating accommodation for two to three thousand people was required, a vestibule and adequate foyer, and space for a very large orchestra and a complete stage. The solving of this problem resulted in something original in theatre designing.

The planning of stairways must always be a very important consideration in theatre designing, and here provision was made for staircase halls adjoining the grand foyer. These halls allow of the grand staircase ascending to the mezzanine promenade, and descending to the basement tearoom. This allows the circle to be emptied directly to Commissioner Street, and the stalls by means of the seven double doors of the foyer.

Two independent nights of stairs lead from the top of the circle to the streets, and two others from the aisles dividing the circle.

The general design of the interior is pure phantasy with a realistic bridge built of quarried stone as a proscenium arch. Atmospheric treatment of the ceiling gives the illusion of being open to the sky, like the great arena of the original Colosseum in Rome.

The great foyer is given a golden effect by means of panel ceiling lighting. The mezzanine gallery overlooks this.

Ladies' rooms are on the right of the foyer and are sumptuously fitted up, the ladies' cosmetic room being most beautiful in grey sycamore and black walls, with grey velvet carpet and furnishings, relieved by touches of silver. A small fountain in the centre lounge is lit from below. The men are accommodated at the other end of the grand foyer, ending in a bar of very beautiful design.

All truncated references not fully cited below are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.

Writings about this entry

Chipkin, Clive M. 1993. Johannesburg Style - Architecture & Society 1880s - 1960s. Cape Town: David Phillip. pg 100
Cumming-George, L. 1934. Architecture in South Africa - Volume Two. Cape Town: The Speciality Press of S.A. Ltd.. pg 41-42
van der Waal, Gerhard-Mark. 1987. From Mining Camp to Metropolis - The buildings of Johannesburg 1886-1940. Pretoria: Human Sciences Research Council. pg 192