The Lion King may finally have been eclipsed: Life Of Pi is a tale of fur and fortitude that is so uncannily real, you could be at the zoo
Life Of Pi
Wyndham’s Theatre Until February 27, 2hrs 5mins
The Drifters Girl
Garrick Theatre, Londra Until March 26, 2hrs 20mins
The long-running The Lion King, with its extraordinary animal puppetry, may finally have been eclipsed.
Nel Life Of Pi you get the impossible: a 16-year-old boy adrift in a lifeboat with a 450 lb Bengal tiger, a hyena, a full-sized zebra and an orangutan. These puppets are so uncannily real, you could be at the zoo.
The adaptation of Yann Martel’s Booker-winning 2001 novel – also a film – is told in flashback from the lad’s hospital bed in Mexico.
The tiger (sopra) has three visible operators – but you never notice them. Watch it prowling the lifeboat’s gunwales, crouching, sniffing the ocean. It’s a living thing
Pi’s ship sank along with his family and most of their zoo. He recalls his 227 days at sea with only biscuits, an umbrella and a how-to-survive manual (top tip: drink turtle blood – it has no salt).
Hiran Abeysekera is sweet as the traumatised, eccentric Pi. But the tiger (giusto) is most definitely the star.
We’ve all been to panto and felt sorry for whoever is in the rear end of Daisy the cow. This lethal beast has three visible operators – but you never notice them. Watch it prowling the lifeboat’s gunwales, crouching, sniffing the ocean. It’s a living thing!
Adapted for the stage by Lolita Chakrabarti, the parched horrors of Pi’s experience are matched by his allegorical animal visions, splendidly realised in Max Webster’s production by Finn Caldwell and Nick Barnes’s puppetry.
My only hesitation is that, while the puppets are real, the human cast – notably Pi’s interviewers on dry land – are rather wooden. But for theatregoers looking for a new dimension in puppetry and storytelling, this tale of fur and fortitude is just amazing.
The Drifters Girl stars the ‘Queen of British soul’, Beverly Knight, as the remarkable Faye Treadwell, who turned Atlantic Records’ hottest vocal group into a global phenomenon.
She’s great, but it’s the boys who own this show. Shiny- suited, with indelible smiles, these cats groove immaculately through The Drifters’ gorgeous songbook.
Tarinn Callender, Adam J. Bernard, Matt Henry – all are memorable. But Tosh Wanogho-Maud is adorable as Rudy Lewis, the tentative, gay one.
Stand By Me is a total belter – ditto Saturday Night At The Movies, Under The Boardwalk, Come On Over To My Place. The lads hilariously play the white parts too – even Bruce Forsyth at the Palladium.
The show is a force field of charm and indelible music.