iSurprise Lionel Wendt Theatre

Legendary theatre and cultural creative heart of the city

An art gallery with a purpose

Lionel Wendt is the artistic heart of the city. Opened in 1953, this was Colombo’s first real theatre. This place was a hive of creative activity. It was a centre for the arts in the wide sense of the word; from drama to poetry, from sculptures to concerts. The heart of the place was upstairs in the Art Centre Club. Here creative people, artists and other like-minded liberal progressive people met, discussed and argued about everything from art to religion to politics.

The spirit of Lionel

Here lives the legacy of Lionel Wendt, one of the country’s most brilliant photographers and pioneer of Sri Lankan modern art. Lionel was outspokenly gay and incredibly liberal for the time: 1930’s. He was also very respected in Colombo society. After his death in 1944 his friend and fellow artist Harold Peiris wanted to create a place in his memory, a place for all to enjoy and to freely express and exchange ideas, and so he did.

It was an oasis of liberalism in a traditional society. Some brilliant minds came to fruition here.
— Rohan Ponniah, actor and long-time patron of the place.

Insider secret

The very first production to go on the boards at ‘the Wendt’ was Maxim Gorky’s The Lower Depths in 1953. that very year, directed by Neumann Jubal. Not much has changed, the theatre is just as intimate as it was in the early days, grab your chance to see a show, exhibition or other artistic performance.

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