Be prepared to go on an amazing journey as the show which has stunned audiences on both sides of the Atlantic takes up a Christmas residency at The Lowry.

The Life of Pi, based on the best-selling novel by Yann Martel, is at Salford Quays, as part of the first UK tour for the award-winning show.

It follows in the footsteps of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and last year’s Ocean at the End of the Lane, as the theatre’s main family show over the Christmas period.

The Bolton News: The Life of Pi (Picture: Johan Persson)

With mind-blowing visual effects, actors share the stage with an array of animals brought to life by a team of amazing puppeteers.

It’s the story of a young boy who, with his family, hopes to emigrate to Canada only for their ship to sink leaving the boy stranded in a lifeboat with a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan and Richard Parker, a Royal Bengal tiger, for company.

Watch: Life of Pi tiger, star of most watched video in the world

The story cuts from his memories of being in the lifeboat to his time in a hospital bed being questioned by the authorities. How did he survive? Were the animals real or merely a figment of his imagination?

Yann Martel’s novel has sold more than 15 million copies around the world but has been completely reworked for the stage by Lolita Chakrabati.

The Bolton News: The Life of Pi (Picture: Johan Persson)

“I read the book when it first came out and I absolutely loved it,” she said. “Even now I can’t really explain why. It is such a fantastic story but one which is really unusually told.

“It’s a story that’s full of mystery and delight and which leaves the readers with a lot of questions to answer. Then and even now I still can’t answer many of those questions but that’s what makes it a modern classic.”

Many questioned whether it would even be possible to bring Life of Pi to the stage but having been asked to adapt it, Lolita took a radical approach.

“I basically got a PDF of book and cut and pasted it into different sections,” she reveals. “The sections covered topics including God, family, animals, faith, doubt and survival.

“Then there’s the basic story about the young boy.

“Having taken the original novel apart it was a question of reassembling it – and the story started to tell itself. It was a bit like putting together a jigsaw.”

She is full of praise for Yann Martel who allowed her total freedom in adapting his novel.

“He is brilliant,” she said, “and so generous. He has given his thoughts on various drafts of the play and given me the odd little nugget to work with.

“He said that the animals which feature in the play should never be anything less than scary, apart from a goat at the beginning they should all be dangerous. By keeping that idea in the script it transforms it into something much more realistic.”

Life of PI has become renowned for the puppetry which is an integral part of the storytelling.

The Bolton News: Richard Parker visits The Lowry (Picture: Nathan Chadwick)

Indeed, the puppeteers involved in bringing Richard Parker and the other creatures to life in the West End production were collectively awarded Best Actor in a Supporting Role in the prestigious Olivier Awards.

Finn Caldwell is the show’s puppet and movement director having honed his craft as a performer in the original production of War Horse, the show which first showed how effective puppetry could be on stage.

“Puppetry solves a problem which would be impossible and very dangerous to do any other way,” he said. “Let’s face it there’s no way we could have a real life tiger on the stage.

“War Horse was the first big game changer which awakened the public to the possibilities you could achieve through puppetry and we have come so much further with this show.”

In Life of Pi although the puppeteers are clearly visible, the animals soon become real in the minds of the audience. Turtles swim across the ocean, an orangutan does steer a lifeboat through choppy seas and Richard Parker, well, he is simply menacing throughout.

The Bolton News: The Life of Pi                                    (Picture: Johan Persson)

The puppets take more than three months to make and the designs have been refined in consultation with the puppeteers themselves making them as realistic as possible.

Duplicates of every puppet are required in case of accidents and although Finn would not reveal how much they all cost the figure runs into several hundred thousand pounds.

A team of eight puppeteers will go on tour and they will be accompanied by physios to help them cope with the extreme physical nature of their work.

“If you think of them like a sports team,” said Finn. “They are athletes, they train every day – what they do is not easy and I think that audiences are realising what an extraordinary thing it is that they are doing.

“This is not a puppet show; the puppets are an integral part of the overall story. They are characters in their own right.”

“Working alongside Finn and the puppeteers has been an extraordinary experience for me,” said Lolita, sister of BBC news anchor Rita Chakrabati. “Obviously the puppets cannot speak as we do but they do speak to the audience. The way the puppeteers bring out their characters is amazing.

“And the end result is something quite magical. You get to watch these top end creatives working as part of a fabulous story. But it’s a story which doesn’t pull any punches either which is why I think older children love it.

“Whatever age you are we know about difficulties in life, about the struggles and about survival. But I’m a great believer in hope. No matter how far you fall, the thing that keeps you going is hope.

“In Life of Pi you’ve got this young boy who loses absolutely everything; he struggles, he suffers, he questions life but he always hopes and at the end he’s enlightened.”

If this sounds profound – it is. That’s part of the appeal of Life of Pi. But it is also hugely entertaining.

“For anyone coming along, the first thing I want them to do having seen the show is go ‘wow’,” said Lolita.

“I also want them to have had a good time – we have all sat through plays where we didn’t have a good time but I suppose my strapline throughout my career as a writer is ‘enjoyment not endurance’. I also hope they feel something and go on a journey and that the experience stays with them and that they may then keep raising questions about their place in the world and what family means to them.

“Hopefully you will see yourself on stage, if not in the people then in the animals.”

The Bolton News: The Life of Pi (Picture: Johan Persson)

Both Lolita and Finn have been involved in every stage of Life of Pi’s stage journey, from its debut in Sheffield through to its transfer to the West End and then Broadway and now on its first nationwide tour.

“I know the show works and everyone is going to enjoy it,” said Finn. “But each time we get a new production we get to make it even better and more polished and clearer for everybody. Every time we go back into rehearsal it’s like taking an engine apart and getting all the grease off it. We can then soup it up make it even more powerful.”

“It’s such a fantastic space here at The Lowry. Taking the show on tour we have redesigned it with each venue in mind. The video work on the show is mind-blowingly good and you’re really going to see that in Salford.”

Life of Pi is at The Lowry, Salford Quays until Sunday, January 7. Details from