Life of Pi – Adapted from Yann Martel's magical book
The brilliant new stage adaptation of Life of Pi, which premiered this year in Sheffield, is due for a West End transfer in 2020, and theatreland is thrilled. What a story, what a production, what a joy.
Life of Pi is based on Yann Martel’s Man Booker Prize-winning novel of the same name, and it's on at Wyndham’s Theatre from summer 2020, designed to delight. Lolita Chakrabarti's fresh stage adaptation has already had a critically acclaimed sell-out season in Sheffield. It's all about a cargo ship that sinks leaving a hyena, zebra, orangutan, Bengal tiger and 16 year-old Pi, an Indian boy, in the lifeboat, the only survivors, and the Direction comes from Max Webster.
Life of Pi is a Canadian book published in 2001. Piscine Molitor Patel, shortened to 'Pi', is a young Tamil boy from Pondicherry. A deep thinking lad from an early age, he manages to survive a total of 227 days in a lifeboat on the mighty Pacific Ocean accompanied by a huge, fierce Bengal tiger called Richard Parker.
The book sold more than ten million copies worldwide. The UK edition won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction and was picked for CBC Radio's Canada Reads 2003. It won the 2003 South African Boeke Prize, the Asian-Pacific American Award for Literature in Best Adult Fiction for 2001–2003, and in 2012 it was made into a stunning movie directed by Ang Lee, with screenplay by David Magee.
Why is Martel's tiger called Richard Parker? It's down to a series of odd name-led coincidences. Richard Parker was a character in the Poe novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, a shipwrecked cabin boy whose fellow survivors ate him, and someone who was drowned when the Francis Spaight sank in 1846. And that was a coincidence too strange to ignore. As the author said, "So many victimized Richard Parkers had to mean something."
The story takes place on a boat at sea, which means the theatre itself is going through some dramatic physical changes in preparation. It'll be reconfigured to extend the stage out into the stalls, changing the seating levels so the place turns into one surreal environment that feels like it completely surrounds the audience. Very clever.
The puppets, which are extraordinary, are by Gyre and Gimble. The West End production is by Simon Friend, in association with Playing Field and Robert Bartner. This is an extraordinary story that delivers a highly unusual, touching and thrilling experience to audiences, and it's very hard to forget. Don't miss the breathtaking puppetry, cutting-edge visuals, and the epic journey of endurance and hope that unfolds.