Nelum Pokuna.

The Nelum Pokuna Mahinda Rajapaksa Theatre is beautiful on the outside but a bit cheap on the inside. Still worth a visit.

Nelum Pokuna is an impressive 3 billion Rupee performing arts theatre near Vihara Maha Devi Park. It’s quite beautiful from the outside but actually hosts surprisingly few events. We got a chance to go for a Commonwealth concert and finally saw inside.

The overall impression as you walk in is, well, impressive. The curving facade puffs the building out, reflecting light and making a beautiful sight, especially at night. As you walk in, however, you are struck at how rather ordinary the space is. There’s cheap carpet, cheap wood and the actual theatre isn’t that big.

The main hall seats over 1,200 people on the ground floor and across multiple balconies. It’s a very tall space, but the chairs feel cheap and the floor looks like linoleum. There’s a high ceiling, but the wood along the walls looks warped and mismatched at times.

The stage is huge and can apparently be raised or lowered. As you look back into it the scene is a bit strange, there are giant wood pillars reminiscent of those in Kandy temples as well as a printed image of Sigiriya along one wall. It honestly seems like all the detail and design has gone into the facade out front. The interior actually looks a bit splashed together and cheap. It certainly doesn’t look like it will age well into a historical building.

We enjoyed the show, a concert featuring the Symphony Orchestra of Sri Lanka and guest players from the Commonwealth. The sound was good and we think the crowd enjoyed. Sadly we looked for upcoming events on the Nelum Pokuna website and found none. Perhaps this is because booking the venue costs Rs. 840,000 for four hours, rather hefty for local productions.

It’s not as impressive space as the facade would suggest, but it is a nice venue to watch a show. We just wish there were more shows to watch.

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