Life of Pi

Peter Gray previews the play which many critics are calling the new War Horse- Lolita Chakrabarti's delightfully imaginative Life of Pi.

This welcome transfer of Lolita Chakrabarti’s stage production of Life of Pi, which began life at the Crucible theatre in Sheffield, will see the Wyndham’s Theatre in London transformed into the Pacific ocean for Yann Martel’s celebrated story.

The production has been winning glowing reviews in Sheffield, with critics particularly falling for the show’s charm and imagination.

The Guardian, for instance, has described the production as stunning, with “transformative puppetry, design and direction”. The Times critic was impressed too, calling the show “nothing less than awe-inspiring”. The Daily Telegraph, meanwhile, has gone even further, suggesting that Life of Pi may be a worthy successor to War Horse.

In a piece written by the journalist Dominic Cavendish, the paper said “we’ve been waiting a while for the ‘next’ War Horse – a theatrical phenomenon that can hold a family audience spell-bound, spur the imagination and make the heart race… It looks as though that moment has arrived.”

The production tells the story of Pi, an indian boy who suddenly finds himself adrift on the Pacific with only a handful of animals to keep him company.

Pi’s journey, which begins as a desperate act of survival, soon transforms into something else entirely: as the youngster is faced with a daily battle for survival, Life of Pi becomes a journey of awakening and discovery, with Pi’s curiosity about life leading him to some important truths.

With much of the action taking place in a boat, and with all the animals in the production rendered by puppets, Life of Pi relies heavily on the skills of the actor playing Pi, and that of the puppeteers.

Fortunately all three have won rave reviews for their work on the production.The Stage has described Hiran Abeysekera, who plays Pi, as having the: “charm, wit and seriousness to make him a compelling narrator of his own magical-realist tale. In one clever illusion, he evaporates into the set, as if actor and stage have merged into one”.

Nick  Barnes and Finn Caldwell have similarly won great praise for their puppetry, with The Stage describing Caldwell and Barnes’ puppets as “works of art. The tiger Richard Parker… is a majestic creation: although the actors are in view, you soon forget they’re on stage. Each little touch, each flick of the tail or tilt of the head, makes it feel more alive”.

Chakrabarti has had a distinguished career as an actor, writer and producer,  since she graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 1990.

The theatre graduate’s previous writing work includes an adaptation of Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities and Red Velvet, about the African American actor Ira Aldridge. The play, which opened at the Tricycle Theatre in 2012, subsequently led to Chakrabarti winning the Charles Wintour Award for Most Promising Playwright at the 2012 Evening Standard Awards. 

Life of Pi will be at the Wyndham’s Theatre from the 15th of November 2021 until the 27th of February 2022. More information about the production can be found here.

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-London's Best Events-
What: new theatre
When: 15 Nov 21 - 27 Feb 22
Where: Wyndham's Theatre
Website: Life of Pi