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Phil Willmott

The Life of Pi Comes to London

Life of Pi Here’s some exciting news. The new, highly acclaimed, stage adaptation of the THE LIFE OF PI, the Man Booker prize winning tale of a boy and a tiger is coming to London.

Few regional productions have made such waves as the premiere of this piece at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre. The book and the film proved pretty irresistible but I'm really looking forward to seeing it on stage principally because of the involvement of Finn Caldwell who’ll bring to life a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan and a 450-pound Royal Bengal tiger by employing his exceptional brand of puppetry.

He co-founded production company Gyre and Gimble with fellow puppetry maestro Toby Ollie after they met as part of the original team who created the puppets for the National Theatre’s mega hit WAR HORSE. I had the pleasure of working with Ollie early on in his career.

Together and separately they’ve created some of UK theatre’s most extraordinary moments. Cladwell himself was responsible for the beautifully realised creatures in shows like The Elephantom (National Theatre & West End) Angels in America (National Theatre & Broadway), The Light Princess (National Theatre and Groundhog Day (Old Vic & Broadway).

What’s more the team are promising to convert the traditional Wyndham’s Theatre into what it’s owner Cameron Macintosh is describing as “rejigging levels and extending the stage over the stalls so that the floor and walls of the theatre become one complete surreal environment, that I think it will be even more intense than before"

Producer Simon Friend promises that this reconfiguration “will give audiences the very best experience of our state-of-the-art design and video projection, as well as bringing the majestic Pacific Ocean in to the stalls.”

Performances begin in London on 22 June 2020.

Here’s a reminder from the production’s PR about the first run in Sheffield where it was awarded a string of five star reviews, and the other key personnel involved 

The original novel by Yann Martel has sold over 15 million copies worldwide and is the story of how a boy and a bunch of animals are stranded on a single lifeboat after a cargo ship sinks in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean. “Time is against them, nature is harsh, who will survive?”

Award winning writer Yann Martel’s other works include THE FACTS BEHIND THE HELSINKI ROCCAMATIOS (1993), SELF (1996), WE ATE THE CHILDREN LAST (2004), BEATRICE AND VIRGIL (2010) – a New York Times Bestseller and a Financial Times Best Book, 101 LETTERS TO A PRIME MINISTER (2012) – a collection of letters to the prime minister of Canada; and THE HIGH MOUNTAINS OF PORTUGAL (2016).

The dramatisation is by Lolita Chakrabarti, an award-winning actress and playwright. Her writing credits include; RED VELVET which opened at the Tricycle Theatre in London in 2012 before returning there in 2014, transferring to New York and the West End. RED VELVET was nominated for nine major awards including two Olivier Awards. Lolita won the Evening Standard Theatre Award for Most Promising Playwright, The Critics Circle Award for Most Promising Playwright and the AWA Award for Arts and Culture.

The director, Max Webster was the inaugural Baylis Director at the Old Vic and is now an Associate Director at the theatre where his work includes FANNY AND ALEXANDER, COVER MY TRACKS and Dr. Seuss’s THE LORAX

Casting for Life of Pi is to be announced.