Goldy Notay: ‘Life of Pi is a beast of a play’

Eastern Eye caught up with the terrific British actress to discuss Life of Pi, theatre and the secret of a great live performance

Goldy Notay

By:
Asjad Nazir

SHE may have acted across diverse mediums, but Goldy Notay is arguably at her best on stage and has an impressive body of work to back that up.

She recently starred in an epic production of Mahabharata and is currently on a year-long UK tour with the multiaward winning show Life of Pi. The theatre adaptation of the best-selling book previously had a successful West End run in London, before transferring to Broadway and now audiences around the UK have a chance to watch it.

Eastern Eye caught up with the terrific British actress to discuss Life of Pi, theatre and the secret of a great live performance.

What has it been like joining a successful production like Life of Pi?

An absolute gift. I went to see it twice in the West End. It was so enchanting. I was wide-eyed and captivated by the animals. In fact, one becomes so enthralled that it’s easy to forget there are puppeteers.

How, as an actor, do you prepare for a year-long tour?

You shriek. Then phone a friend. Especially your predecessors, and you ask a plethora of questions. I’m also a spreadsheet nerd so pre-planning is the key to my happiness. I’ve been blessed with a skilful and kind acting company, which is a relief.

What is it like presenting the same show to audiences in different cities?

Each city, each venue creates a new landscape for us. There are some cities where the locals are big theatre enthusiasts (like Sheffield), where Life of Pi was crafted, so that was an exciting place to start the trajectory. I’m looking forward to taking the show to audiences who didn’t get a chance to see it in the West End. That’s the beauty of touring – to make theatre accessible.

Does joining an already successful show put pressure on you?

In some ways yes, because people may have read the book, watched the film, or seen the play, so they have particular expectations and, of course, we want them to equally appreciate our iteration. But I do love the engagement I have with people who are familiar with it. It’s very much a discourse piece.

Could you tell us about your character in Life of Pi?

Amma is the mothership. She helps run the family zoo and is devoted to her husband and children. She’s the homemaker, the spiritualist and all with remarkable stoicism considering there’s political unrest that permeates their lives. And she makes a cracking potato poriyal.

Why do you think the show is so loved?

It’s colourful, enchanting and the puppets are breathtaking. At the centre of it all, there is a beating heart called Pi, who is a product of many beating hearts. The story itself is existential – it makes us delve into the deeper resonance of who we are as humans.

What is your own favourite moment in the show?

My favourite moment is actually one that I watch from the wings. Pi is at sea and marvelling at the beauty of the world, particularly the stars. Pi feels enlivened despite being in the midst of the unknown, not to mention sharing space with a Bengal tiger.

Do you ever get nervous before going on stage?

Always. But I’m getting better at dealing with anxiety. Preparation, meditation and spending less time staring at my phone and more time gazing at the stars. I have a little doggy Luna and I’ve realised that the dog walks aren’t just for her. They are also for me.

A scene from Life of P

What is the secret of a good stage performance?

Oh gosh, that’s a big question. I wish someone would just whisper it to me. What I can say is that leadership is crucial. Having a director who understands each player, their idiosyncratic highs, even their Achilles’ heels and then finds a way to enable the actor to fly. The actors I admire are the ones who put in the time. They go to galleries, read, climb, dance and eat strange foods; they are observers of life. Nothing is wasted.

How do you feel being on stage?

Like ill-fitting shoes, a loose thread in a favourite jumper. Honestly. I am always genuinely amazed and relieved when lines come out in the way they are meant to.

What is the most memorable theatre show you have watched as an audience?

Well apart from Life of Pi in the West End, I loved Ivo Van Hove’s Age of Rage at the Barbican. It was an absolute feast. There was a particular battle scene with a stage full of mud. The actors were covered head to toe in slime as they stared menacingly at the audience. It was eerie and extraordinary.

Why should we all watch Life of Pi?

It may make you believe in God (in whatever description that befits). It will certainly make you believe in family, teachers and life lessons that make us who we are. It’s a beast of a play. And like most animals, it’s ferocious and beautiful. Plus, in this iteration, we have some Asian puppeteers playing Richard Parker (the tiger) and a female alternate playing Pi. Since most narratives are told through the voice and gaze of the male, this is an exciting departure from the norm. We also have a Sikh character named Admiral Balbir Singh. How refreshingly wonderful is that!

Why do you love live theatre?

It’s synergistic. Feral. Tribal. All of us collecting branches, twigs and creating fire. And sometimes things go a bit adrift. I was once in a play where a stranger from the street came onto the stage in the middle of a scene. And we all kept calm and carried on. That’s live theatre. You won’t get that buzz with Netflix.

Life of Pi is on a year-long UK tour. To find out locations and dates, visit www.lifeofpionstage.com