Thomas W. Hodgkinson

Life of Pi

Adapted by Lolita Chakrabarti
Crucible, Sheffield

An Indian boy in a Mexican hospital describes how he survived 227 days at sea, despite sharing his lifeboat with a Bengal tiger. As he speaks, the sides of the boat emerge from the floor and his metal-framed bed becomes the stern. The illusion of water is projected onto the stage, swirling, sometimes swamping the gunwales. Then, swimming towards him, comes that tiger, created by spectacular puppetry. This dazzling stage adaptation of Yann Martel’s Booker-winning novel is better than the film version and maybe even the book. Expertly adapted by Lolita Chakrabarti, Life of Pi may not “make you believe in God”, as the hero claims, but it will make you believe in theatre. It’s pretty strong meat for smaller children, though. After a crazed hyena ripped the innards from a zebra, one boy of about four quietly made his way to the exit, and I can’t say I blamed him. But if you can stomach that, make the trip. In his tall tale, Martel argues that the truth is not what is, but what we’d like it to be, then suggests that this is a triumph. In this production, he’s right.