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A Magazine for Sheffield
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Photo by Johan Persson.

This latest Sheffield Theatres production is a dazzling adaptation of Yann Martel's 2001 bestselling book. Given the novel is set mostly at sea, on a boat with just a boy and a tiger, this was always going to be a challenging production, and one which the company pulls off with complete aplomb.

The adaptation is not without its flaws. The interview framing device feels clunky and is too often referred back to. The performances are fine, but the majority of the characters struggle for breathing space - even more so when up against actor Hiran Sbeysekera. He fully convinces as the plucky, affable Pi and anchors the production. His enactment is note perfect both in voice and physicality.

There were parts of the play where I physically recoiled in partial fear, my jaw firmly on the ground

If people might quibble at such faults, it's because everything that is going on around the actors is faultless. The Crucible has been used brilliantly in the past, but here the stage transforms so convincingly into a boat at sea that it simply has to be seen to be believed. Parts of this production look, feel, even smell real. The set, lighting and sound designers all deserve the highest praise - bar one.

That is reserved for the puppetry, created by Finn Caldwell and Nick Barnes, which is little short of extraordinary. All of them are superb, but Richard Parker is the jewel in the crown. The production has brought to life a full-sized, Bengal tiger in a way I for one never deemed possible. There were parts of the play where I physically recoiled in partial fear, my jaw firmly on the ground.

In a world where state-of-the-art effects dominate our movies, this was one of the greatest visual spectacles I've witnessed. This is a good play, based on a good book. But Caldwell and Barnes have taken it to another level. See it, be amazed, then see it again.

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