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My Life in Culture: Actor Divesh Subaskaran

My Life in Culture: Actor Divesh Subaskaran


by Sarah Finnan
20th Feb 2024

Lolita Chakrabarti’s dazzling Olivier Award-winning stage adaption of Yann Martel’s best-selling novel Life of Pi opens at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre later this month with actor Divesh Subaskaran as the title character. Born in Malaysia and raised in Singapore, he’s a graduate of the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. This show marks his professional debut.

Last thing I saw and loved… although I’m at the theatre now every night, it’s very rare these days that I get time to sit and watch a show. Luckily on my day off a couple of months ago, I saw The Father and the Assassin at the National Theatre. It is a story about the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi told through the lens of the assassinator – played by Hiran Abeysekara who actually played Pi in the original production of the Life of Pi! His portrayal was gripping and he is probably one of the best actors I have witnessed on stage.

I find inspiration in… the people who raised me. My father is an extremely pragmatic and disciplined individual and my mother is someone who is very creative and has a lot of love. They are the epitome of yin and yang. I think if I could emulate these qualities, then I can take on the world!

My career highlight is… the first preview of the Life of Pi at the Lyceum in Sheffield. We’d only had one run of the full production that afternoon, so performing it in the evening to a paying audience was pretty terrifying – particularly as this is a highly physical, ensemble-based show and my first performance of this scale to such a big audience. I remember drinking a lot of coffee and the adrenaline was unlike anything I had experienced before!

The song I listen to to get in the zone is… I particularly enjoy the album “Promises” by Floating Points, Pharaoh Sanders and the London Symphony Orchestra. I suppose it’s like stepping into a meditative state, blurring lines before I get on stage.

The last performance I recommended is… Steam Down at the Matchstick Pie House in New Cross Gate, London. It’s an Afro-inspired jazz fusion group who perform every Wednesday in South London. I used to live close by and always felt their music to be empowering and fun on an otherwise ordinary Wednesday evening.

I never leave the house without… a notebook to jot down thoughts, quotes, doodles, things that I may or may not use. Although most of the time, it’s just pages filled with uncompleted to-do lists!

A film I still think about is… Whiplash. It’s about the pursuit of “greatness” and the sacrifices/consequences that come with that. I thought JK Simmons put in such a great performance. That’s the thing I still think about, that teacher-student relationship – it’s something we’re always searching for as artists, someone who is willing to push you to your depths, in this film’s case, that relationship is explored to the extreme, however you can argue that it was a way for Andrew (played by Miles Teller), the protagonist, to be great. 

My dream role is… to be the Indian Spiderman — Pravitar Prabakhar. There’s a whole Indian parallel universe for the character of Spiderman in the film across the Spiderverse, and if they ever made that into a live-action film, they should hire me! The resemblance is uncanny. Don’t believe me? Google it. 

The best advice I’ve ever gotten… be a rockstar. I was given that advice when rehearsing Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona at drama school. I felt like I was getting bogged down by the language and then my teacher, Dougald Bruce Lockhart, told me to be a rockstar! I guess the direct translation of that advice is to be brave! And it certainly helped. 

My favourite moment in this show is… the scene where I tame the tiger in Act 2. It’s pretty cool to get to fight a life-sized, three-man operated, killing machine, Bengal tiger on a revolving boat, timed perfectly to a dramatic underscore in front of over a thousand people every night! I think that’s pretty dreamy. I hope the audience gets as much of a thrill watching it as I get from doing it. However, on a real note, my all-round favourite moment is actually getting handed a cup of water in the scene after that one. It’s the tastiest cup of water. Come see the show and you’ll understand why.

The most challenging thing about being a performer is… giving the same level of focus and commitment on the closing night in a venue, as I gave on the opening night in each theatre. I’m learning how to pace myself, essentially so that I can survive such a long tour – whilst telling this fantastical story with the utmost conviction. 

After each performance I… it depends where I am! Last week, I shared many a whiskey with my colleagues after each show in Scotland – the granite city (Aberdeen), as it had so many cosy whiskey bars. I’ve been advised to take post-show ice baths, which will help my muscle recovery after each show. Whether I make this health transition is a question for the next destination…

If I wasn’t an actor I would be… a food critic because I absolutely love eating food. And it would be good to get paid for it!

The magic of theatre to me is.. the joy of sharing an experience with a live audience. Journeying with your fellow actors, puppeteers, stage technicians through the pressure as a company to get all the different cogs working to tell a story so vivid and colourful as this one for an audience to immerse in is where the magic lies, I think.

Life of Pi runs at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre from February 27 – March 2. Tickets start from €21.50 and you can get yours here.

Imagery courtesy of the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre