Atonement director JOE WRIGHT has credited his light-hearted new theatre project with helping him to cope following the death of his famous father-in-law Ravi Shankar.

Wright, who is married to the Indian musician's daughter, Anoushka, was left devastated when Shankar passed away in December (12) at the age of 92.

The moviemaker has been busy working on his stage debut, directing a production of Arthur Wing Pinero's comic play Trelawny of the Wells, and he is convinced the material has helped make him happy again.

He tells the London Evening Standard newspaper, "It is not profound in any way, not at all heavy. It makes me happy as a piece, it's very warm and when I read it, it made me laugh. The characters in it are genuinely kind to each other...

"(Shankar's death) was quite intense and very sad and we miss him a lot. He was a tiny man with a big, big, big soul, and however natural the process is, it doesn't make it any less sad. He is very, very missed. I find it amazing how life works really: I couldn't be doing a better play. If I was doing something about death or sadness or darkness at the moment I think it would be dreadful."

Wright's production, which tells the story of an actress attempting to give up the theatre for love, opens at London's Donmar Warehouse next month (Feb13).