Director of Life of Pi, Max Webster, gave us a preview of rehearsals and chatted to us about bringing this epic tale to the stage.
Why did you decide to make Life of Pi into a theatre show?
“Because it’s a book about imagination. Pi tells two stories about how he survived at sea: one is realistic, brutal and cruel with just humans, and the other is fantastical and full of imagination, animals and fantasy. At the end of the show he asks his interviewers, and the audience too, to choose which story they prefer: do you prefer life in its most factual and scientific way, or do you prefer it to be filled with imagination?
That’s an important question as to how we look at the world as individuals and how we want to look at events that happen – do we look to see the bad things that are happening, or do we imagine how things might transform to make the world better?
That’s also a very theatrical question, instead of asking what’s the realistic way of doing it, what’s the imaginative way to do something – as soon as you open that door, theatre is your oyster. Theatre is all about not representing things literally; you can’t put the sea on stage, or a tiger, or a magic island – but you can ask the audience to join Pi and his imagination. So, to me, theatre is absolutely the best way to be telling Yann Martel’s story because it’s the medium that most acts you to join in the collective act of imagination.”
Has anything surprised you during the process of creating this show?
“Weirdly, putting things like a Zebra or a Tiger on stage have been some of the easiest things so far because we have a brilliant team of puppet designers, movement directors and skilled puppeteers. The harder challenge for us is to take this novel, which is episodic and mostly takes place with the boy and a tiger on a boat with not much happening, and turning that into a story and a piece of theatre that works on stage.”
Is there a moment in Life of Pi that you’re particularly excited for audiences to experience?
“I think about how audiences might react to different moments in the show every single day! I think there’s such excitement in when the tiger first appears, or when Pi kills a fish for the first time and breaks his vegetarianism, or when the night sky lights up to make Pi feel like he might just be alright in this universe. I always love whichever scene we’re working on. I hope that lots of people will get to see this show in whatever form it exists in, it’s such a well-loved book and film.”
How would you describe this production?
“Spectacular, moving and magical.”
Life of Pi is in the Crucible from Friday 28 June – Saturday 20 July. Tickets are available here.