I had known that Yann Martel's Life of Pi is coming to Greenwich Theatre and by coincidence I saw a copy of the book at Greenwich's Waterstone bookshop. Thinking it would be a good idea to read it, as I was going to see it anyway in May, I bought it and went ahead with what the Guardian reviewers promised to be "a unique and original story". True, they were.
Piscine "Pi" Molitor is a sixteen-year-old boy who embarks with his parents on an 'adventure' to Canada, where the promise of a better life awaits them away from turbulent India in the early seventies. Unfortunately, the cargo ship they are on sinks in the Pacific ocean, leaving Pi on a lifeboat all his own, with a hyena, a broken-legged zebra, a female orang-utan and a 450-pound Royal Bengal tiger for company.
The story narrated by Pi himself starts out full of hope and curiosity where life for a sixteen-year-old boy is just beautiful and full of adventure waiting for him to discover. His love of God (and his search of Him) leads him to practice Hinduism, Christianity and Islam at an early age, his defence being that his aim is to just love God who he has found in all religions put together.
As the story proceeds (particularly after the ship sinks) we get a more mature Pi who has to deal with all the ferocious animals in the boat with him if he is to survive and outlive the experience. He does have a head start though as he is the son of a zoo keeper and therefore attempts to forge a relationship with the Bengal tiger in particular (who is the fiercest, strongest, wildest and most dangerous of the animals). It is truly a magnificent story from the start. A story of courage, belief, true humanity and innocence lost.
In all honesty, I expected something like "Three Men In A Boat" if you've read it. I didn't particularly enjoy that story, but this one was different. Or again, age before beauty and maybe now was just a good time for me to fully understand the significance of this book (however, this is a personal observation, not backed by any scientific evidence). But the book is enchanting. It is easy to follow and at the direst of times in the boy's plight at sea it can be unbelievably funny and witty. It will make you question a lot of your beliefs and will stay in your memory for some time. Whether you like it or not, this is a book not easily forgotten.
The play will be shown at Greenwich Theatre in May, 2007. Twisting Yarn is the only company in the UK permitted to stage the story, so don't miss your chance to see this production. However, a note to the wise: Read the book first to enjoy the book's true impact and significance. For other reviews on Life of Pi, click here.
Note: Check this space in May as Whimsy ChiChi will also be reviewing the play.