facebook play-alt chevron-thin-right chevron-thin-left cancel location info chevron-thin-down star-full help-with-circle calendar images whatsapp directions_car directions_bike train directions_walk directions_bus close home newspaper-o perm_device_information restaurant school stay_current_landscape ticket train

Life Of Pi

Hiran Abeysekera, Pi, Life of Pi, Wyndham’s Theatre

What has the journey been like to get back to theatres opening for you? 

The journey has been, it’s been lovely. It’s been a weird two years, so I’m kind of quite confused on the way I’m supposed to feel about things starting up again, but I think I’ve learned how not to care too much about everything. 

So yeah. So, coming back into it, I feel much more… I mean, I guess I’ve grown. I think a lot of people have had to grow up really quickly during this time. So, coming back is it’s a strange one. I feel like I should be more excited about it, but I think I am. Maybe when the show starts, I will be all like crazy about it. 

We’re going to start in two weeks’ time. So, we’ve been rehearsing. But we did this show in Sheffield Crucible… I mean it was like a trial run, and it was great. We were supposed to open it last year. Obviously, we couldn’t, and coming back to it… I mean, loads happened like I had to go back home to Sri Lanka. I was building a lot of things. I built a theatre with a house for my mom. Coming back, so, you know, I was able to like, employ a lot of people like pay people properly. And so, uh, different. It was a different life that I lead.  

I mean, the first locked down I was in the countryside. I was a sheepherder and a repairman, a hedger. I became an irrigations guy. And suddenly I’m back here and apparently, we’re opening a show in the West End. 

Yeah OK, you’ve really had a different time to everyone else. 

So, I have yeah, so I’m feeling. Like I don’t… I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel what I feel now is like. I’m on this journey and it’s, just a part of it. And this journey actually started all the way back in, you know, 2008, when I first came to England. And it’s like a wave of fortune or luck or good relations that have carried me over here and I have no idea where it’s leading, but at the moment I’m having a great time. 

Yeah, so do you feel like you quite almost appreciated the time that you’ve had off?  

Oh yeah, oh yeah. Much needed time off as well. And I was, yeah, I mean it was a great time. The first bit of the lock down like there was I was in love with it met somebody in Paris who would come to London. And we ended up going to her friends in in Dorset, in Sherbourne and suddenly, as I was saying, I was this farmer and she was this farmer’s-wife-figure like baking and we were laughing about what these roles that we were playing already, which is really…  

Going back home, oh man. Going back home this time and spending a lot of time with my parents. You know, seeing them as people who are getting older and part of me and me as part of them. It was, it’s quite deep and profound. Some chats that, I’ve never spoken with my parents this way, because I have been away for so long, and whenever I go back it was always short periods of time. So, I’m the good, good son. You know, who does all the right things and says all the right things. But this time, because I was there for a while, we got into conversations that you know, things that we didn’t agree upon. Then you know, now and then there were like, arguments and stuff. But it’s brought us closer and showed me a different side of life, I guess. That’s why when I come back and this is all going on and we’re getting photographs taken of us and I’m like… I don’t know what to make of it all.  

Yeah, it’s a change. I was going to say how is it being back? 

Yeah, I mean I’m enjoying it. I’m I really am. When I said I don’t care about things too much now that doesn’t mean the enjoyment is gone, or I’ve become a cynic. Not at all. Like wholeheartedly, I’m having a wonderful time in life, with the stakes. I feel like the stakes are much… We’ve seen what the stakes are in real life, right? When, like thousands of people are dying every day. That’s like high stakes, when countries are brought down to its knees, you know. So, in normal life. I feel much more chilled, really. Rehearsals. Play opening. I feel much more relaxed and I’m glad for it. 

I think that’s a great way to be, a hundred percent. And what did you miss most about live performance? 

Live performance. What did I miss? I guess the oh, complete vanity I guess, like the applause at the end. You know? That’s it. Being able to like have that big stage and know that with a sigh or… I can control a few hundred people’s breath. Those moments. And of course, the community that comes with, like the families that we create like instantly. Yeah, yeah, I guess the lights. So many things, there are so many things in performance that I would miss and also not missed that much. 

Mina Anwar, Ma, Life of Pi, Wyndham’s Theatre

What has the journey been like to get back to theatres opening. 

Well, it’s been a long journey. We’ve been on a hiatus since 2019. We did this showing at the Sheffield Crucible. And this is my second show from Sheffield that’s come to the West End. I was in the original Everyone’s Talking About Jamie. And so, we were meant to come last year, and obviously. Who knew that the world was going to change and that we were going to have to revaluate, reassess everything really. Our lives, our artistry. And now we’re here, seems like, quite a poignant play to be doing at this time. 

Yeah, absolutely. And how is it for you being back? 

Yeah, brilliant. I mean, I’ve actually been fortunate enough to have been working on lots of projects. Lots of audio dramas and radio. And also, I’ve have directed three projects as well, so. I directed a Zoom film, filmed entirely on Zoom. 

And then I made a sitcom out of a stage play. Which I filmed and was in. And then I’ve just directed a play at Customers House, South Sheilds. About the Yemeni sailors and their wives and children. So that’s, it’s been amazing. And a little bit of filming. But it’s that thing of just going, each project then becomes really special.  

So, you’re enjoying it, but you’re busy. 

Yeah, well busy and. Also just coming back and, I think people have landed differently. You know and kind of also wish that the industry has landed in a different way, you know. You look at how the industry supports you, and who you are within it as an artist. As a, you know if you have service, we’ve been in ministry long time, so I did quite a lot in the last two years of being of service, to reach out to students or people who looked in towards, you know their mental health. And I think we need to like come together and be kind. And you don’t know what everyone’s been through. I think we just need to make sure that we go together as one.  

Yeah, absolutely. What did you miss most about live performance? 

Because I’m a singer as well, I really miss singing with a live band. I really miss just having that power of sound. I think it’s a collective thing, just laughing together. Being able to just play around and being able to just talk, you know. For a long time, we were very socially distanced you know, so you have to kind of be aware of not really doing everything that was about being away from each other. When actually what you’re longing for is connection. You want to create stories so that we’re all kind of connected. At the same time, you kind of have to go, ‘oh that’s not really natural that I don’t, that I’m not able to be tactile, or I don’t hug you, or’. But, for some people it’s been like, interesting to come back to a more kind of, being that kind of tactile with other artists and actors. It becomes habit building after a year and a half. Because you just feel a bit fearful. You know, we have to be careful, you know we’re tested all the time. You know we have great responsibility to each other to make sure that we are sensible. But also, at the same time not fill ourselves with anxiety about being back at work and creating something for people. So, there’s like a dual responsibility, yeah. 

Romina Hytten, Puppeteer, Life of Pi, Wyndham’s Theatre

I’m currently in the Life of Pi, playing the Tiger’s heart. Which is a lovely way of putting it. But basically, it’s the front legs.  

Amazing. And what has the journey been like to get back to theatres and everything, for you?  

Well, it was as kind of a bizarre one. I was very lucky in that we got cast in the Life of Pi quite early on. So about two years ago in October, which was already quite early to find out about a job ’cause we weren’t meant to start till May 2019, or 2020? I can’t remember. It’s a blur. And so, I kind of always knew I had this job and the producers were really great all the way through the pandemic. Saying like it’s happening, you know like secure. So yeah, I felt quite lucky in the fact that I knew that at some point it was going to come back and. And really grateful for that, but it was bizarre like as in it felt really surreal and it’s like is it ever going to happen. Just such a long time to wait. And yeah, it was kind of a bit nuts. I was doing a show in America. We were touring around the US with a puppet, big puppet dinosaurs. And then like I remember reading an article like early February about it and thinking, wow, that sounds nuts and then Broadway shut down and we flew home and it went straight into… So yeah. It’s kind of, a bit crazy. 

Yeah, and how are you finding it being back now? 

Amazing, so wonderful and like so emotional just like every day. Just being like this is so cool that we get to do this. I think there’s just… a real… you can feel it from everyone there in the room that everyone is just in love, like so happy to be there and just so grateful to be working. I feel like that was the case in a lot of shows that you go work on anyway. I think that this industry, like you don’t do it unless you really love it and you really want to be there. But it definitely feels like that’s gone by like a hundred percent. Because yeah, everyone’s just so grateful. Happy to be back. 

I can imagine. And what did you miss moments about live performance? 

Oh my gosh. What did I miss most about it. The imagination, I think, just the kind of… creating like, magic. Especially with puppets. Because you are really like, bringing just an object to life. Having that imagination. You kind of have it, we, you know, watched a lot of movies and series and stuff, but it’s not the same as like… because that’s like, there and it’s very clearly there in front of you.