Among the five Olivier Awards Life of Pi won in London last year was a best supporting actor award for the seven actors who operate the show’s impressive puppet Royal Bengal tiger, Richard Parker. This creature—who really does become more terrifying as the performance continues—is both the nemesis and intimate of 16-year-old Pi (Hiran Abeysekera), first freaking him out at his family’s zoo in India, and then supposedly on board a rescue vessel, the two of them floating for many days on the high seas of the Pacific Ocean, with the tiger only kept from chomping down on our hero by the placating effects of an orange whistle.
Two of the seven award-winning operators—Fred Davis and Scarlet Wilderink—have crossed the Atlantic to help operate Richard Parker for Life of Pi’s Broadway production (Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, to Sept 3). Parker is a vibrantly colored and modeled puppet, whose languidly threatening gait is a feat not just of model-making but also the physical skills of his operators. His roar is pretty damn real too. At one point he even acquires a voice, channeled by Brian Thomas Abraham, who doubles as the ship’s scary chef.
The danger of Richard Parker has been established early in Life of Pi, a charming theatrical adaptation by Lolita Chakrabarti of Yann Martel’s bestselling novel that for all its puppetry and special effects feels a gentle, modest enterprise. We first meet Pi in the hospital bed he wakes up in in Mexico after his dramatic adventure, to many questions from an official. The sudden sight of a looming giraffe’s neck in this all-white room is the first sign to expect a clash of magic and realism, as the explanation of what happened to him unfolds.
Source: The Daily Beast
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