Review - Life of Pi - National Tour

Life of Pi - National Tour

Life of Pi has been a bestselling novel by Yann Martell, then a successful film adaptation directed by Ang Lee and now makes its way onto the stage, thanks to actress and playwright Lolita Chakrabarti. It tells the story of Piscine Molitor Patel or Pi who we first see in a hospital bed, or more accurately under a hospital bed in Mexico, after surviving the sinking of the ship he was travelling on with his family to Canada to start a new life, along with the animals from his family’s Zoo. Investigators want to get to the bottom of what happened and are interested in the facts but Pi tells them a fantastical story of survival on a lifeboat with the Zoo’s Tiger, the strangely named Richard Parker, and we experience it too as the hospital ward magically transforms into the Zoo, then into a ship on the high seas and eventually the fragile lifeboat. Pi’s story is full of wonder and symbolism and has important things to say about life and survival but it is left to the audience to interpret what the true meaning of Pi’s tale really is.

What makes this story come alive is the wonderful use of puppetry to represent all the animals from an Orangutan to a Zebra and a Hyena, the most graceful and elegant Sea Turtle to of course the pivotal animal in the story, Tiger Richard Parker. The puppets and their movement have been brilliantly designed by Finn Caldwell and Nick Barnes, and the actors / puppeteers who operate them inhabit them with the most vivid characterisation. Richard Parker was wonderfully brought to life by Sebastian Goffin, Kate Rowsell and Antony Atunes, making him real to the audience within minutes of his first appearance, portraying his movement so accurately and conveying his power and personality by a move of the head or a growl, it really is astounding to witness.

Another integral and important part of the storytelling is the lighting design by Tim Lutkin and Tim Deiling.  It cleverly creates the atmosphere of different locations throughout the play, particularly when the ship is sinking it genuinely feels like the stage is awash with water, and when Pi is on his lifeboat it’s surrounded by swirling water that comes to life on the floor of the stage which takes the audience right into the action and feel the emotions that overcome Pi on his long and treacherous journey.

The show is led by an outstanding central performance from Divesh Subaskaran as Pi, he is charismatic and energetic and really drives the story on. The whole show is in his hands really and he never leaves the stage. His performance is even more remarkable when you consider that the role marks his professional debut after leaving Drama School. He really is the beating heart of the story. He is also well supported by the other actors in the cast who add layers and context to the play.

Life of Pi is a wonderfully rich and colourful story that engages the audience and really gets you thinking about its central themes of faith, survival and interdependency. It is a visually spectacular and thought-provoking piece that reminds us that we each have our own stories and the power that exists in telling them.

The production is running at the Wales Millennium Centre until Saturday the 21st of October. Tickets are available here

Full tour details can be found here:

**** stars

Beverley Anne Harris

Join Beverley every Wednesday from 12pm for the 'Musical Lunch Box' here on Box Office Radio