Culture

Pi of the tiger: move over War Horse, West End stage adaptation of Life of Pi roars into life

Owain Gwynn and Richard Parker performing as the Tiger in Life of Pi

Rehearsals are underway for the West End premiere of Life of Pi, Lolita Chakrabarti’s ambitious stage adaptation of Yann Martel’s award-winning novel. The play begins performances at the Wyndham’s Theatre in London on November 15 2021.  

To accommodate the production, the historic Wyndham’s Theatre is said to be undergoing a spectacular transformation.

Many of the original Sheffield production’s cast are returning for this West End run. Hiran Abeysekera once again plays Pi, with Mina Anwar as Ma, Nicholas Khan as Father, Payal Mistry as Rani, Tom Espiner as Father Martin and Commander Grant-Jones, Raj Ghatak as Mamaji and Pandit-Ji, Syreeta Kumar as Mrs Biology Kumar and Zaida Khan, David K.S. Tse as Mr Okamoto, Kirsten Foster as Lulu Chen, Habib Nasib Nader as Cook and Voice of Tiger.

Hiran Abeysekera faces the Tiger in Life of Pi
Hiran Abeysekera faces the Tiger in Life of Pi

Bringing life to the play’s most audacious character are Fred Davis (Tiger Head), Daisy Franks (Tiger Heart), Romina Hytten (Tiger Heart), Tom Larkin (Tiger Head), Scarlet Wilderink (Tiger Heart), and Tom Stacy (Tiger Hind).

Winner of the Man Booker Prize, selling over fifteen million copies worldwide, the theatrical adaptation of Life of Pi is described as ‘an epic journey of endurance and hope.’ 

Hiran Abeysekera (Pi) holds Richard Parker the Tiger in the boat
Hiran Abeysekera (Pi) and Tiger stranded in the Pacific Ocean

After a cargo ship sinks in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean, there are five survivors stranded on a single lifeboat, a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan, a sixteen year-old boy and a 450-pound Royal Bengal tiger. Time is against them, nature is harsh, who will survive?

The novel was filmed by Ang Lee and released in 2012. For the movie, cutting edge VFX and 3D filming techniques were used to bring the extraordinary animals to life. For this stage production, leading edge puppetry provides the magic, under the guidance of Puppet & Movement Director Finn Caldwell. Caldwell began his career in the original company of the National Theatre’s international phenomenon War Horse

For the movie, cutting edge VFX and 3D were used to bring the extraordinary animals to life. For this stage production, leading edge puppetry provides the magic…

Owain Gwynn is threatened by Richard Parker the Tiger and Hiran Abeysekera (Pi) in Life of Pi. Photo by Johan Persson.
The historic Wyndham’s Theatre has been transformed for Life of Pi

Lolita Chakrabarti’s writing credits include Red Velvet, which was nominated for nine major awards including two Olivier Awards. Lolita is the winner of 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; She also adapted Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities for MIF in 2019; her play Hymn was live streamed in February 2021 from the Almeida, before opening to audiences later in July.

Her acting credits include Vigil (BBC), Riviera (Sky), Born to Kill (Ch4), Criminal (Netflix), Fanny and Alexander (The Old Vic), Hamlet (RADA). She can soon be seen in Showtrial for the BBC and Wheel of Time for Amazon Prime

The Tiger looks on at a turtle in the adaptation of Life of Pi
Just a turtle swimming past…

The production is directed by Max Webster, Set and Costume designer is Tim Hatley, the Puppet Designers are Nick Barnes and Finn Caldwell, the Video Designer is Andrzej Goulding, the Lighting Designer is Tim Lutkin, the Sound Designer is Carolyn Downing, the Composer is Andrew T Mackay, Dramaturgy is by Jack Bradley, the Casting Director is Polly Jerrold, the Associate Director is Hannah Banister, the Associate Set Designer is Ross Edwards, the Costume Supervisor is Sabrina Cuniberto and the Props Supervisor is Ryan O’Connor.

Life of Pi is produced by Simon Friend. To book tickets visit lifeofpionstage.com.

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