Stage version of novel is a big winner at awards recognising the best in theatre in Britain…
WRITER and actor Lolita Chakrabarti has told www.asianculturevulture.com that the five Olivier awards presented to the ‘Life of Pi’ on Sunday (April 9) was not only “thrilling” but “a public and industry stamp of approval”.
She also felt that stories stories such as ‘Life of Pi’ appealed to many and she told acv she thought she had done a good job adapting the book of the same title to what is now an award-laden theatre production.
The play won Oliviers for Best Play, Best Actor for lead Hiren Abeysekera, a Best Supporting Actor award for seven puppeteers and Best Lighting Design (Tim Lutkin & Andrzej Goulding) and Best Set Design (Tim Hartley, Nick Barnes and puppet head Finn Cauldwell).
Chakrabarti told acv: “It’s a public and industry stamp of approval. It means that I did a good job.”
The play is creatively adapted, from Martel’s 2002 Booker Prize winning, by Chakrabarti and centres around the tale of an older teenager Piscine (Pi) Patel, who gets shipwrecked and has to survive with a tiger as his only companion on the high seas after he, his family and the animals they keep in a zoo, were all set to sail to Canada.
It is both allegorical and a hugely physical piece of theatre, with puppeteers enacting the animal roles and the Tiger, named Richard Parker, essayed by seven puppeteer-actors – Tom Larkin, Fred Davis, Daisy Franks, Romina Hytten, Habib Nasib Nader, Tom Stacy and Scarlet Wilderink – whom all received Oliviers for their role in ‘Life of Pi’.
Chakrabarti, when asked by acv, about whether these accolades would encourage more diverse storytelling on West End stages, responded: “I hope it shows that stories like this appeal to everyone. A good story transports us all.”
Yesterday (April 11), she tweeted about the achievement, posting a picture of herself with the 14 Olivier statues the Wyndham’s London theatre production garnered.
In the Tweet, Chakrabarti called the wins, “amazing” and said she couldn’t stop smiling.
“Everyone has worked so hard to realise this extraordinary story by Yann Martel,” she said on Twitter.
At the actual Olivier Awards on Sunday at the Royal Albert Hall, she thanked Martel for being “gracious” in letting her adapt his novel for the theatre; producer Simon Friend for coming to her with the idea; and extended her gratitude also to director Max Webster and the creative and technical teams behind ‘Life of Pi’.
She also had a special word of thanks for her husband, the actor Adrian Lester. Chakrabarti started writing when she wasn’t getting parts.
Collecting the Olivier for Best Play, she told the audience: “When I started writing, he (Lester) was my biggest fan and encouraged me completely and when all the doors were shut, he said: ‘Keep knocking because they will open’.”
Larkin, one of the puppeteers behind Richard Parker, told acv it was “a very surreal moment for us all. But so wonderful for puppetry to finally take its place and be recognised”.
Larkin continued: “This team of puppeteers are the most talented and wonderful human beings I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with and we are supported by so many people.”
Abeysekera, receiving his Olivier for Best actor, thanked his “extraordinary parents”, said Sri Lanka, his borthplace, was going through a hard time, spoke a few words in his native tongue and ended excitedly with – “my Life of Pi family – what’s going on?”
ACV spoke to Chakrabarti about her adaptation of Martel’s Booker Prize winning novel shortly after its press evening in January. She talked about the challenges of adapting a novel she had greatly enjoyed and admired. She also talked to us about her writing process and her conversations with Martel. Read the interview here (see http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/life-of-pi-writer-lolita-chakrabarti-finding-solace-in-the-fundamentals-of-life-with-piscine-patel/)
The play first premiered in Sheffield in 2019 and won awards for its production that year. Abeysekera was among those recognised. The play transferred to the West End and Wyndham’s in this year (after covid delays) and has been extended to September now.
The story centres around Pi (Abeysekera) who with his family and their Pondicherry (Puducherry)-based Zoo (containing amongst its number the tiger, Richard Parker) set sail for Canada and a new life there. The ship is downed in a vicious storm and only a few of the animals survive on a rescue raft – along with Pi, as the only human in the end. What happens between man and animal at sea is at the core of the tale.
Elsewhere, Sheila Atim won the Best Actress for her performance in the two-handed ‘Constellations’ by Nick Payne, and which ran at the Vaudeville Theatre and had four rotating casts.
The other big winner on the evening was ‘Cabaret’ which won in seven categories – Best Musical Revival. Eddie Redmayne won Best Actor in a Musical for his performance as the Emcee and Best Actress in a Musical went to Jessie Buckley as Sally Bowles, with Liza Sadovy and Elliot Levey awarded in the supporting categories for their roles as Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz. Rebecca Frecknall was crowned Best Director, and Nick Lidster won the award for Best Sound Design. This production is a contemporary stage verion of the 1966 John Kander and Fred Ebb musical which saw the West End’s Playhouse Theatre being transformed into the infamous burlesque Berlin Kit Kat Club of the pre-Nazi 1930s era.
The Oliviers also saw nominations for ’10 Nights’ at the Bush Theatre in the Affliate Theatre category. ACV reviewed it earlier this year (See http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/10-nights-intelligent-thoughtful-and-funny-play-review/) and also ‘The Invisible Hand’ in the same category, which played at the Kiln Theatre more recently. Acv reviewed this when it came to Britain in 2016 (See http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/the-invisible-hand-thriller-on-the-money/) This category was won by ‘Old Bridge’ at the Bush Theatre.
The Oliviers in partnership with Mastercard are organised by the Society of London Theatre (Solt) and has been held since 1946 and is named after the famous British actor, Sir Laurence Olivier (1907-1989).
Main picture: From Lolita Chakrabarti Tweet
You can watch televised Olivier Awards – https://www.itv.com/hub/the-olivier-awards/2a2330a0009 (UK only).
Previously (and listing for ‘Life of Pi‘)