Theatres' theatre-in-education company, Twisting Yarn, is the only
company in the UK permitted to stage the story, and have very successfully
toured the production across the country this Autumn.
play's central character is a young Hindu boy called Pi, who has
taken the unusual step of embracing Muslim and Christian doctrines
in his search for God. His family own a zoo back in their native
India. It is only natural that they should choose take along their
beloved animals when they migrate to Canada. However, the ship sinks
and Pi is left stranded in the lifeboat with a hyena, orang utan,
tiger and a zebra.
Artistic Director Keith Robinson talks to Pete Keane to tell
us more about the production:
is it about Life of Pi that made you want to stage it?
it's an amazing story, but one that starts with its roots on the Indian
sub continent, told through the eyes of a very unusual boy who grows
up and whose life adventures are extraordinary.
lives in a zoo
first appealed was the magic of the setting and the fact that Pi
takes on three non-compatible religions simultaneously. It is one
of the few books I have ever read that discusses religion in a fun
and different way and all this seems particularly relevant given
this is a time when religious polarities seem to be becoming more
prominent. When I had finished the book, I just thought that it
was such an amazing story, that I would love to try to stage it.
do you think makes the production special?
is a simple but faithful - adaptation of Yann Martels
novel. Its simplicity adds to its charm and the story flows naturally.
It catches you up not only in the heat of India, but also in the
loneliness of the ocean.
it is the only production of this novel allowed in the UK.
book was actually written for adults. How have you been able to
make it accessible to a younger audience?
havent changed anything. The main protagonist is a boy
it is his story. He lives in a zoo. The fact that the story is told
through his eyes, I think, makes it accessible to young people.
The story also works on many different levels. It also has all the
magic of theatre that appeals to young people
you remained faithful to the original ideas and themes?
Obviously we have had to abridge a 300 page epic novel into a 1.75
hour play so some areas are not dealt with as fully as in the original
book but we have not avoided the more difficult areas such as the
floating carnivorous island and the cannibalism with the blind Frenchman.
the production was in its development stage did you improvise with
the performers or were all the scenes developed in your head beforehand
we had a small production team on board consisting of me, our designer
Naomi Parker, and the writer / adaptor Andy Rashleigh. We talked ideas
and discussed and argued about the book how to interpret it
and then how to stage it. The auditions took the form of a twoday
workshop in which we explored ideas with the auditionees. By the time
the cast was assembled we had quite a clear picture and a good draft
script for the first half (before leaving India) but it was clear
that a lot of the second half (at sea) would have to be worked out
in rehearsal. The end of the play was worked out by the whole team
through discussion and improvisation and constantly referring back
to the source novel.
is left stranded in a lifeboat
have already mentioned that you do not charge for your school age
audiences. How is that possible on tour?
we were granted the rights to stage Life of Pi, one of the conditions
of the agreement was that we were not to charge admission so this
was not a problem for us with the performances here at our home
base in Bradford. However, touring outside became problematic in
terms of cost to us. The reason the production is touring to Derry
and Belfast in Northern Ireland and to Wolverhampton in England
is down to generous funding from those cities who have a vision
and belief in this type of thing ie: that it is an opportunity for
young people to see exciting live theatre and for free.
do you think this adults are often drawn to childrens theatre?
Was this your experience with your 2003 tour?
know what you mean by childrens theatre. Our company remit
is to provide a quality theatre experience for young people. Twisting
Yarn normally takes or creates exciting, challenging stories and
makes them into exciting challenging theatre. Exciting challenging
theatre works for any age, whether child or adult. Certainly with
Life of Pi, the adults loved it too, especially the aficionados
of the book.
the initial Alhambra Studio dates are over, what are your plans?
general Twisting Yarn tours three projects into schools each year
and covers all age ranges. Our plans for the spring are to tour
a production for five and six-year-olds which is called the Carefree
Companions of the Caliph of Cordoba, about the golden age of Spain
when the Muslims, the Christians and Jews all lived and worked happily
long have you been working as a practitioner of theatre in education
and off for 27 years!
is it about theatre in education that you enjoy?
working with young people in general and I love trying to give young
people some of the theatrical experiences that I was lucky enough
to have grown up with. It is more that I love theatre and want other
people to share that experience.
me three good reasons why I think local authorities should support
theatre in education initiatives?
onto dodgy ground here! What is "theatre in education"?
There are a lot of companies going around purporting to be this and
often local authorities will employ them to tick boxes."
What I mean by this is that a council may decide it wants to tackle
an issue and then get a company in to blast this through schools.
These companies tour nationally out of the boot of a car employing
a couple of young actors who are often underpaid (their sets usually
look like something from a car boot sale too!).
is one of the few books I have ever read that discusses religion
in a fun and different way."
is what I call theatre with a message and I dont
like it. I dont like it for several reasons mainly
because it is usually poor quality, a bad theatrical experience
and it doesnt work young people see through it. Certainly
for myself, I know that when I was at school, everything I was told
not to do I was tempted to go out and do, and I suspect that
this is a fairly universal reaction. What I call issue based
theatre is not quite so bad as theatre with a message
because it tries to make the audience think about something, without
cheating them down some didactic path. I believe we can only ask
the questions and let young people decide the answers for themselves.
Yarn is special and unique in the country on several levels. To
my knowledge it is the only creating company for young people that
works out of a receiving theatre by that I mean
a theatre that takes in tours of plays produced elsewhere. Secondly
it is the only company left in the country that currently does its
work without charging young people or schools. More importantly
we are in demand in schools precisely because we do not do message
based patronising theatre. We are recognised for challenging
young people theatrically with our projects and inspiring teachers
with our creativity. All our work is multi-cultural, and often multi-lingual,
to represent the communities here in Bradford that make up our audience.
What can people expect when they come to see Life of Pi?
good show that will transport them away from the every day reality
into places they can go only in their imaginations. A show based
on an amazing story which will make them ask questions afterwards.
I dont know of anyone who has either read the book or seen
the show who has not ended up talking about it afterwards
whether in the playground or in the pub!
performances in Bradford: Friday, October 8th (7pm), Saturday, October
9th (4pm, 7pm), Friday, Novermber 26th, Thursday, December 2nd (7pm)