Lovers of great theatre, spectacular sets, and fine writing are in for a treat at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre from 27 February. For five nights, and with three matinee performances, you can see the Life of Pi, a play based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Yann Martel and adapted for the stage by Lolita Chakrabarti.

The story centres around the character Pi, who finds himself stranded on a lifeboat after an epic story with four other survivors – a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan, and a Royal Bengal tiger. Life Of Pi is a story of an epic journey of endurance and hope.

The play premiered in June 2019 at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield before transferring to the Wyndham’s Theatre in London’s West End in November 2021. It has been lauded on many occasions, winning five Laurence Olivier Awards, and five UK Theatre Awards. The Broadway version of the play has also garnered many accolades.

Rebecca Killick Elan James as OJ and Life of Pi company by Ellie Kurttz. Bord Gais Theatre, Dublin 2024

Life of Pi began as a British and Ireland tour, returning to Sheffield at the Lyceum Theatre in August 2023, and is scheduled to tour until July this year. Divesh Subaskaran is playing the title role of Pi, in his professional debut, and Romina Hytten reprises her Olivier Award-winning role of Richard Parker, the tiger.

I caught up with the play’s associate director Leigh Toney as the show was about to open for its run in Birmingham. She has been with it since it transferred to the West End so it’s fair to say that few people know the work as intimately as she does. “Life of Pi has something for everyone, and I learn something new each time I see it,” she says.

Leigh says her role involves, “being the creative eyes of the creative team, making sure that the cast is telling the same story that we started with, and keeping it alive.” The play has a recommended minimum age of eight, given some of the mature themes it deals with, but Leigh believes that it, “has something for everyone. It’s a visual spectacle, works on many levels, and people will take away lots of different things from it.”

What attracted Leigh to work with a show that involves huge numbers of puppeteers? “I was attracted by the story itself, and the challenge of telling this story which is a real spectacle. It is brought to life so beautifully that it feels real. The story of Pi and finding the strength to get through such a difficult situation still gets me every time.”

While Pi is the central character, the story is also about the various animals – the tiger, orangutan, hyena, zebra and even a rat. The puppeteers had to learn about the movements of each animal, “so that the audience buys into the belief that they are watching real animals,” says Leigh. She is keen to stress the incredible skill sets possessed by the puppeteers.

“The puppeteers do the hard graft. For example, three people play the tiger, and the real skill is that you don’t want people to know you are there, you want them to believe you are a tiger.”

Such was the skill shown by the seven people who alternated and played the tiger in the West End production that they collectively won the best supporting actor gong at the Laurence Olivier Awards.

Finally, Leigh had only the highest compliments for the lead actor in the role of Pi. “Divesh is phenomenal. It is extremely draining, physically and mentally, telling the tale of someone who has lost their entire family and had to survive something horrific. He does a beautiful job of telling that story.”

Life of Pi runs from 27 February to 2 March and tickets cost from €21.50; see

New exhibition in Dublin is sure to turn some heads

Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675), Girl with the Red Hat, c.1665-1667 / Andrew W. Mellon Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington

If you find yourself in Dublin at any time this year, consider a visit to the National Gallery. This is the 160th birthday of the gallery, which first welcomed the public to see some 112 works of art in January 1864, a decade after the National Gallery of Ireland Act was passed to establish the institution.

Today it is home to a wonderful collection of about 14,000 pieces of art, though not all are on display. The breadth of the collection means that there is always something new to see when you enter its portals.

While entry to the gallery, its café and shop is free, there are also some events which require a modest ticket price.

One that will run at the National Gallery until 26 May, and is open now, is Turning Heads: Rubens, Rembrandt and Vermeer. Available to see in Ireland thanks to the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp, the collections contain a number of iconic pieces. Many will be familiar with works such as Rembrandt’s The Laughing Man and Vermeer’s Girl with the Red Hat, but they are just two of the exquisite pieces to see.

For more information, see

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