I loved the book and worried that I would be disappointed by the film. I wasn’t. I didn’t believe it could transfer to live theatre, but I underestimated the brilliance of the Sheffield Crucible Theatre team. It is sympathetically adapted by Lolita Chakrabarti, reducing some elements so we can enjoy the key story.
After a cargo ship carrying a family and their zoo animals sinks in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean, a sixteen-year-old boy named Pi is stranded on a lifeboat with four other survivors - a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan, and a Royal Bengal tiger. Only one endures.
Max Webster directs a flawless production which weaves flamboyant scene and costume design by Tim Hatley, engrossing puppet and movement direction by Finn Caldwell, transportive lighting design by Tim Lutkin and immersive sound design by Carolyn Downing. It helps to be above the stalls so you can appreciate the video projection which makes the ocean scenes so credible.
Hiran Abeysekera as Pi exudes the enthusiasm and bounce of his young character, balancing the innocence of his early self with the questing philosophy of the survivor. Vital and endearing, he carries the show.
Mina Anwar plays Ma, with Nicholas Khan as Father, and Payal Mistry as Pi’s sister Rani. They form a convincing family and each is effective in advising Pi on survival. Raj Ghatak as Mamaji and Pandit-Ji, Syreeta Kumar as Mrs Biology Kumar and Zaida Khan complete the initial Indian community.
Tom Espiner offers comedy and wisdom as Father Martin and Commmander Grant-Jones. David K.S. Tse as Mr Okamoto and Kirsten Foster as Lulu Chen are effective as Pi’s incredulous inquisitors. Habib Nasib Nader swaggers as Cook and intimidates as Voice of Tiger. Nuwah Hugh Perera , Alex Chang and Deeivya Meir complete the impressive Life of Pi cast.
The puppets are awesome, from single birds on sticks to the immaculate tiger. The tiger puppet is brought to life by Fred Davis and Tom Larkin as the Tiger Head, Daisy Franks and Scarlet Wilderink as the Tiger Heart and Romina Hytten and Tom Stacy as the Tiger Hind. You soon disregard these humans as Richard Parker roars to life.
Life of Pi is a triumph of ingenious storytelling of an epic journey of endurance and hope.