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NOT SUITABLE FOR YOUNGER CHILDREN. CONTAINS GRAPHIC MATERIAL.
Pi is sixteen and stranded in a lifeboat on the Indian Ocean... with a hyena, zebra, orangutan, and one Royal Bengal tiger.
Yann Martel's Man Booker Prize-winner is adapted for the stage by Lolita Chakrabarti. Max Webster directs this hit transfer from Sheffield.
(seen at the afternoon preview performance on 25th November 2021)
The monkey has never read the book, seen the film or heard anything about “The Life of Pi” beyond knowing the title once won the Booker Prize. Thus it came to the story fresh and without any preconceptions, let alone any knowledge of the story.
It did know that the producers felt it worth adapting from Sheffield Theatre’s thrust stage to a more conventionally shaped West End one, involving altering the stalls and significantly reducing the number of seats here to show the production off to best advantage.
Was it worth the effort? Probably. Sort of. The problem is that London has rather seen it all before – the monkey particularly recently just a few days before ‘round the block’ at “The Ocean At The End of the Lane.” Had it not seen that one, it may have felt more kindly disposed to this, but truthfully “Pi” simply doesn’t taste quite so good.
The real hero of this event is Andrew T Mackay. His first score for theatre is a triumph. The monkey realised very early that all the tension, every moment of drama, was coming from the music behind the dialogue. Strip that away and much of the impact of each scene vanishes.
Lolita Chakrabarti’s adaptation is literate, if a little humourless. As bureaucrats question hero Pi, the action moves from hospital bed to his past life running a family zoo in India and its ill-fated move to Canada, during which Pi ends up in a lifeboat and weaves a tale.
Hiran Abysekera does a reasonably compelling job with a lengthy performance in the title role, and there’s lovely work from Amma (Mina Anwar), mainstay of his household. Other characters are rather more sketched in, doubling up on parts as the story sweeps over three years. Tom Espiner is rather good as Commander Grant-Jones, author and sea-dog survivor extraordinaire. Payal Mistry makes a good sister Rani, and Habib Nasib Nader is a dexterously voiced tiger.
The obvious praises have to go to the puppeteers, Finn Caldwell and Nick Barnes designs bringing a menagerie to life (and some gruesome deaths too). It’s all there, but “War Horse” was first and this just adds fur, without a “gasp in wonder” moment. Simply not as fluidly integrated either. There’s an element of “look how theatrical we are” to it all rather than truly seeing the animals as live characters in themselves.
Tim Hatley does a fine job making a zoo, market, hospital and boat appear, and there’s well-considered entrances and exits using simple techniques refined. Tim Lutkin paints with light to give us Indian sun dazzle and Mexican institutional gloom. Blending with Andrzej Goulding’s video provides times and places as needed – the apex being a stage floor map of the ill-fated voyage.
Still, there’s not a lot of payback for two hours of attention. The “twist” may be satisfying in a novel, but staged it just negates everything we are told to believe in, just when we are needing to leave the theatre as believers in the tale.
It’s done well, will delight fans and worry parents of younger children who may ill-advisedly have bought tickets. Adult and light enough to be entertaining, deep enough for those wanting not too much intellectual stimulation. For those seeking just that, it could prove a bit of a disappointment.
Life of Pi, Wyndhams Theatre, December 2021
Seats, Stalls C16-C17, DJW
Well, what can you say about these seats for this show, other than absolutely incredible. Absolutely slap bang in the middle, and even though it's third row, you're not having to crane your neck to look up, as all the action is far enough from the very front of the stage, you can see everything comfortably and without any kind of hindrance to your eyeline.
Specifically for this show as well,
[SPOILER] these seats are that close you get an incredible view for when the animals are moving around the place [SPOILER].
They do come at a premium of around £87.50, but with that you get an unrivalled immersive viewing experience. Access is also easy, being moments from the main entrance, and easy to get in/out of the seats. Sneaky tip in case future performances are similar - we went for Grand Circle tickets on a Sunday, and had a very lucky upgrade to these premier seats, so perhaps worth the gamble if several pricey seats haven't been sold!
Stalls J28: Decent legroom. Very good view. Would sit here again!
The monkey advises checking performance times on your tickets and that performances are happening as scheduled, before travelling.
Monday at 7.30pm
Wednesday at 7.30pm
Thursday at 2.30pm and 7.30pm.
Friday at 7.30pm
Saturday at 2.30pm and 7.30pm
Sunday at 3pm
NO TUESDAY PERFORMANCES.
No performance on 5th June 2022.
Runs 2 hours 5 minutes approximately, with one interval.
Theatres use "dynamic pricing." Seat prices change according to demand for a particular performance. Prices below were compiled as booking originally opened. Current prices are advised at time of enquiry.
To 24th July 2022
From 26th July 2022
RUSH TICKETS: App Todaytix are offering £25 "Rush tickets," located at venue discretion, for all performances. Released for the performance on that day, first-come, first-served. Download the App from Todaytix, unlock the "Rush Ticketing" feature by sharing on Facebook or Twitter, and that will allow you to buy tickets.