February 2012


Theatre in bloom
February 2012




The striking facade of the Nelum Pokuna – Mahinda Rajapaksa Theatre

Soaring to 29 metres in height, passersby have often been transfixed by this extraordinary new landmark in the City. Not only does it command your attention, it fills the vision-span with a masterful design, built to a monumental scale it holds a distinct air of state-of-the-art. This is the Nelum Pokuna or Lotus Pond, the new performing arts theatre in Colombo.

Words Prasadini Nanayakkara | Photography Prabath Chathuranga

Opened December of last year, the Nelum Pokuna - Mahinda Rajapaksa Theatre has ignited a renewed interest in the performing arts industry of the country. Funded by the Government of China its design is an emulation of the ancient Lotus Pond in Polonnaruwa and has thus inherited a striking undulating exterior of eight lotus petals. Aesthetics aside, packed with ultra modern facilities and technology it is not only a much needed venue for the country but is poised to take centre stage in the region.

The structure spread across 14,000 sqm, and encompasses seven floors - five above ground level and two below - with the main auditorium covering three floors. Along with the building's elevation each floor around the auditorium offers a panoramic view of the cityscape visible across its translucent exterior. At its uppermost is the open air amphitheatre for a vastly different experience of the theatre which can accommodate approximately 200-250 people. Its expansive design further allows for a second open air theatre at the main entrance stairway of the theatre.

it is without any stretch of the imagination that one can imbibe in an atmosphere infused with excitement which the auditorium captures.

The heart of the building however is the main auditorium that possesses a seating capacity of 1,288, spread across a ground floor and two balconies. Standing at the threshold of the stage, it is without any stretch of the imagination that one can imbibe in an atmosphere infused with excitement that the auditorium delivers. Befitting an electrifying performance it may well be every performer's dream.

Of the two balconies the first has been designed for VIPs which exits to private lounges complete with plush furnishing. The significant feature of the auditorium is its stage. 30 metres wide, the main stage consists of three units that can move independently or as one, affording greater flexibility for a variety of performances. An orchestra pit is also present which can be lowered by 2.5 metres and the acoustics of the hall are designed so that sound travels to the farthest corner. The multiple mechanisms for stage manoeuvring are computer controlled so that each scene can be pre-programmed with the stages adjusted to a desired level of elevation and controlled by a joystick or done manually as deemed fit.

Outside of the auditorium are a plethora of facilities that make the Lotus Pond not merely a theatre but 
a complex

The auditorium boasts of an extensive and sophisticated list of sound and lighting facilities. A total of 500 light fittings include, par lights, moving heads and focusing lights, all of which are multi-coloured and automated. These complex installations of lights along with 42 moveable flying bars are all controlled at the lighting control room facing the auditorium which includes a separate console for colour changing and basic fading effects. The sound effects have equal punch, packed with up-to-date sound technology. Over 40-odd speakers hardly add bulk and are embedded unobtrusively around the stage. Another bonus piece of technology is the Super Viewer System installed for surveillance of the entire auditorium via six moveable cameras for the benefit of the backstage crew and performers.

Outside of the auditorium are a plethora of facilities that make the Lotus Pond not merely a theatre but a complex, with every imaginable need of the crew met. Chief among the surplus facilities are a timber-floored spacious and mirrored rehearsal room with adjacent dressing rooms, a meeting room where planning prior to performances can be carried out, 13 dressing rooms out of which five are private dressing rooms, exhibition rooms, a restaurant and administrative offices.

With several notable performances held and the venue booked for upcoming shows, already the feedback from artists and theatre goers alike has been resoundingly upbeat. The Lotus Pond theatre, which functions under the Presidential Secretariat is viewed as a turning point for the theatre industry for local as well as regional artists with its capacity to host versatile performances and productions on par with the global standards.

It can be said that the Lotus Pond is up to the task and complements show-stopping performances. It is a venue where the resonating impact of operatic performances can be had or large theatre productions are made feasible. Artists, directors and producers can now extend their creative wings with abandon for the performance of their lives, for the venue of a lifetime is here.

 

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    The view from the top floor around the auditorium

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    Testing the lights for a rehearsal

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    500 lights illuminate the stage – the stage lights being tested

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    The balcony two reserved for VIPs

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    A seating capacity of 1,288

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    The outside stairway can be used as an open air theatre

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    Passageway with the administrative offices

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    The VIP lounge adjacent to balcony two

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    The characteristic architecture of the building viewed from the ground floor

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    A dressing room

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