Life of Pi

Life of Pi follows the remarkable journey of Piscine Molitor Patel, known as Pi, a young Indian boy who survives a shipwreck in the Pacific Ocean. Pi finds himself stranded on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker, a zebra, a hyena, and an orangutan. As they struggle to survive in the vast expanse of the ocean, Pi draws upon his knowledge of zoology, his faith in multiple religions, and his sheer will to live. The story delves into themes of spirituality, resilience, and the human capacity for adaptation in the face of adversity. Through Pi's extraordinary tale, the audience is taken on a philosophical and existential journey, grappling with questions of faith, the nature of reality, and the power of storytelling itself.

Brought to the stage by playwright Lolita Chakrabarti, the storytelling throughout is thrilling, intense, dramatic and masterful.  Each section of the play is well thought through and captures the audience’s attention, with a dramatic close to act 1 where I was quite literally gripping onto my chair.  You feel part of the action and become totally immersed in Pi’s journey to survival.

The part of Pi was played by Divesh Subaskaran.  This role is extremely physical, fast-paced and emotional. Subaskaran was able to deliver on all levels, with an element of cheekiness thrown in to raise a few laughs, he was completely mesmerising in his portrayal.  There were many highs and lows throughout the play and to be able to switch emotion with such ease is testament to his qualities as an incredible performer.

Now, Life of Pi would be nothing without the animals featured during the story. From the start of the play, we are introduced to Buckingham the goat, Orange Juice the orangutan and of course Richard Parker the Bengal tiger.  These puppets are magnificent and completely believable as they bound around the stage under the direction of the many incredible puppeteers who not only move them, but also provide the noises to fully immerse you into their existence.  Every movement is carefully choreographed by Puppetry and Movement Director Finn Caldwell who was also involved in their design alongside Nick Barnes.  The look, the sound and the movement is second to none and really does elevate this play into something very special.

As we travel with Pi aboard the lifeboat he has found himself stranded on, the atmosphere draws you into actually being on the high seas with him.  The lighting by Tim Lutkin and Tim Deiling is masterful in its creation.  Combine this with the video design by Andrzej Goulding and sound by Carolyn Downing, the scene is well and truly set.  The cast are instrumental in moving various props around the stage, including the pushing and pulling of a small raft that Pi jumps onto to get away from the jaws of Richard Parker.  It’s a real visual feast and executed superbly by all involved.

The story may well confuse some.  Are we meant to believe that Pi survived 278 days at sea on a small boat with a Bengal tiger?  Were the animals actually people and he fabricated his story for dramatic effect? Whatever you take away from the show is your decision, but for me I watched a story of hope, resilience, faith and determination.  Life of Pi is one of those shows that completely captures your attention and imagination and to be able to lose myself in Pi’s world for a couple of hours was a complete joy.

This show was reviewed on the 13th February 2024 at the Birmingham Hippodrome where Life of Pi runs until the 17th February 2024.  Tickets available here: Life of Pi – Birmingham Hippodrome

Review written by Emma Rowley

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Photo credit: Johan Persson

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