Can Life of Pi sail its lifeboat to the West End or will it stay docked on your #WestEndWishList?

Posted on 12 July 2019

Every now and then the world is gripped by a huge phenomenon that makes you forget the troubles of reality. Currently, everyone is back in the Stranger Things bubble since series 3 dropped on Netflix. In 2012, Life of Pi, the Fox 2000 pictures film, had everyone hook, line and sinker, and following the huge success of the 2001 best-selling novel, it was no surprise.

Now the critical and commercial success that had us reeling comes to life once again via a stunning stage adaptation by Lolita Chakrabarti. This Sheffield Theatres production has received a flock of five-star reviews for its debut at the highly regarded theatre Sheffield Crucible. Usually, any production that starts with a boom is likely to spread its wings, or in this case, set sail, and transfer to the West End, and we’re hoping this pattern will be repeated with this theatrical phenomenon.

A West End production of Life of Pi?

The novel and film are both hugely successful and the stage adaptation, whilst only just setting off on its voyage, is proving to continue the streak and is reaping in acclaim. Sheffield Crucible is a wonderful theatre but why release anchor there? There’s hardly any doubt that this production is going to make the voyage to London and have a West End run. This epic tale of hope, survival and endurance is one that has already won the hearts of many and we’re ready to be won over once again by this spectacular theatrical adaptation.

The Life of Pi journey (so far)

Life of Pi began as a novel written by Yann Martel and was published in 2001 by Canadian publishing house Knopf Canada. The international bestseller received massive acclaim, having sold over fifteen million copies around the world and winning the UK edition the Man Booker Prize for fiction a year after it was released. In 2012, Fox 2000 pictures released a film of the same name, and the world was a frenzy for the blockbuster. Amongst the 11 Academy Awards the film production was nominated for, it won four including Best Director (Ang Lee), Best Cinematography (Claudio Miranda), Best Visual Effects (Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan de Boer and Donald R. Elliott), and Best Original Score (Mychael Danna).

The spectacular stage adaptation is based on Martel’s novel and is adapted by Lolita Chakrabarti and directed by Max Webster. Chakrabarti is an award-winning actress and writer; well known for her play Red Velvet (2012) which received an Evening Standard Award and Critics Choice Award for Most Promising Playwright. It was also nominated for WhatsOnStage and Olivier Awards. Red Velvet went on to have productions in the Garrick Theatre as part of Kenneth Branagh’s inaugural season and numerous productions over in the United States. Director Max Webster is an Associate Director at London’s Old Vic Theatre at which he was the director for three world premiere productions including Dr Seuss’ The Lorax.

Critical Acclaim for Life of Pi

This is the first major stage production of Life of Pi and whilst the novel, from which it is adapted, and the film were both major hits, it doesn’t necessarily mean the theatrical adaptation will be. Adapting a story that is already so well loved comes with a lot of pressure and therefore it has to be, somehow, even better than your average production. Life of Pi’s stage version has certainly lived up to the widely loved story though; having received an array of five-star reviews. It has been said multiple times to be the successor to War Horse that we’ve been waiting for; its masterful puppet work is spell-bounding.

Why the West End needs a Life of Pi transfer

For those who need a recap on the incredible tale that gripped the world, Life of Pi is the story of a sixteen-year-old boy who is stranded in the midst of the Pacific Ocean following the sinking of a cargo ship. Pi is one of five survivors, amongst a zebra, an orangutan, a hyena and a hungry Bengal tiger, all of whom are aboard one singular lifeboat. It’s a tale of hope and endurance as they battle against time at the mercy of a harsh mother nature.

We’re all a sucker for a gripping tale and even more so for a survival story. Life of Pi will have you on the edge of your seat and rooting for this boy. Even though we’ve rooted for him before, this intense whirlwind will have you immersed deeper into the story than ever before. The breath-taking designs from Tim Hatley and astonishing puppetry from Finn Caldwell will see this epic journey brought to life in front of your eyes, practically making the audience a sixth survivor and taking you along.

Theatrical productions that cause this much of a stir don’t just shut their doors after a singular run, and certainly not after a three-week run at Sheffield’s Crucible. This captivating show inspires this imagination, but it doesn’t have to for us to believe that its journey will see it transferring to London’s West End sometime soon. 

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Read our previous #WestEndWishList blog on Cruel Intentions here.

By Jade Ali

A love for theatre stemmed from my love of literature and music, but the West End on my doorstep opened up a whole new appreciation and passion for all things stage-y