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Review of Life of Pi: Life of Pi impresses in the theater-shaking staging

Now, we know better not to question the power of theatrical folk when it comes to staging seemingly impossible theatrical works, but Yann Martel‘NS Booker Prize-the novel won The Life of Pi – a story about a boy lost at sea with a Bengal Tiger for 227 days – feels like a particularly formidable prospect. Even more so considering Ang Lee’s incredible, Oscar-winning film adaptation. Definitely a tough move to follow.

The production success of Lolita Chakrabarti is primarily due to Nick Barnes and Finn Caldwell, whose puppets breathe the life of the four-legged animals in the play. Caldwell has previously worked on War Horse, and The Life of PiThe animals are similar, almost lifelike. Giraffe swooping low in the wind. Goats buck and shake with bold personality. When a gust of wind hovers over the stage, you can almost see the air moving beneath their wings.

In the second half, one can really appreciate the art of play here. Controlled by three puppeteers responsible for the head, heart and back, the tiger of The Life of Pi is amazing. The eye quickly dismisses the handlers, who are dressed in beige and dark gray, to focus solely on the tiger’s movements. Big and small. When it struck, the theater shook. Every flick of the tail and the padding of the feet somehow carries the same weight as the real thing. In quieter moments, the rise and fall of his chest is barely noticeable. The result is an animal that looks exactly like life when Pi – hungry and desperate – tries to eat the tiger’s droppings, startled audiences with disgust.

Hiran Abeysekera gives the role of Pi a similar physicality. Under the direction of Max Webster, the actor plays a mean teenager with a masculine sporty personality. He doesn’t walk. He pops, leaps and slams. In doing so, he connects the action of the wild waters with the sterile ward from where he is relaying the story.

However, the production was slowed down in its script. The characters, including Pi’s family, feel two-dimensional, foam copies of Martel’s early creations. The novel’s internal dialogue was also flattened during the adaptation. Pi’s subtle, philosophical reflections are caught up in confusing diversions of God and religion that never take off. While it is certainly difficult to condense all of that into a two-hour play that explodes at the seams, one can’t help but feel the absence of that nuance.

Every tail flick and paw pad somehow carries the same weight as a real tiger in ‘Life of Pi’

(Johan Persson)

But you’ll miss it sooner than you’d be distracted by another element of the wonderful set of plays, seemingly unfolding in perpetuity in layers, each more beautiful than the last. Scene designer Tim Hatley creates a dramatic stage that is malleable to the movement of light and video (Tim Lutkin and Andrzej Goulding). For a moment, the stage undulated in the volatile waters, glittered in pearl sand, and calcified in the fluorescent lights of a hospital room.

There are hearty elements missing from the producer’s storytelling, but they’re hard to deal with when your focus is constantly being dragged to such a startling stagnation. The Life of Pi is a magic eyeshadow trick that never leaves you looking too long at its flaws.

‘Life of Pi’ premieres at Wyndham Theater until February 27

https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/theatre-dance/reviews/life-of-pi-play-review-west-end-b1969256.html Review of Life of Pi: Life of Pi impresses in the theater-shaking staging

Emma Bowman

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