Life of Pi: A Review

The award-winning hit musical Life of Pi has taken to the stage at the Wales Millennium Centre and I was lucky enough to be invited to come and review it. 

Having read the book and seen the film, I was very curious how they were going to be able to tell this story on stage. Relying on large sets and lighting tricks can often mean the story itself gets left behind, shrouded in grand visuals. But from the very start, my doubts were shot out of the water.

Based on the global phenomenon and winner of the Man Booker Prize by Yann Martel (adapted into a play by Lolita Chakrabarti), the story follows the dramatic tale of 17-year-old Pi, portrayed by the incredible Divesh Subaskaran, as he tells his story of surviving for 227 in the Pacific ocean. After a terrible storm takes down the ship him and his family were taking to Canada, Pi is stranded on a lifeboat but he is not alone. Sharing it with a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan, and a Royal Bengal tiger. As Pi does everything he can to survive, he questions the great mysteries of life and dares to understand the true meaning of faith. 

Photo Credit: Johan Persson

This show, simply put, is spectacular! I’ve seen products before that use puppetry to help illustrate the story such as The Lion King and The Ocean at the End of the Lane (both of which are incredible), but this was something else. Leaning into, not only the physical characterisation, but the emotional depth of these animals. It’s almost hypnotic to watch the actors bring these animals to life with perfectly choreographed movements and sounds. 

This production was theatre magic at its finest. The revolving stage and the visual effects of the water really pulled you in, as if the audience themselves were stranded in the Pacific ocean along with him. And the outlining set, once again, shows that a seemingly simple setup can transform the stage over and over again. From the beauty of the zoo in India to the rusty inside of a cargo ship, Set and Costume Designer, Tim Hatley, and Lighting Designer Tim Lutkin helped bring this story to life on stage. 

Photo Credit: Johan Persson

And, of course, I have to give a standing ovation to the puppetry work. Puppetry and Movement Director Finn Caldwell, is a genius. Even though you can see the actors behind the puppets, the fluid mixture of movement and sound is enchanting. Sebastian Goffin, Kate Rowsell, Antony Antunes, Romina Hytten, Katie Kennedy-Rose, Akash Heer and Aizash Khan, all made up the parts of the infamous Royal Bengal tiger, Richard Parker. Absolutely incredible. 

Photo Credit: Johan Persson

Going into it, I knew it was going to be an emotional rollercoaster to say the least, but I was surprised by the humour woven into it. To be able to make an audience laugh within such a dark story is a hard thing to do. Divesh Subaskaran won the hearts of the audience, with his emotionally raw portrayal of Pi. The role itself is a demanding one but his immense talent and astonishing interpretation of Pi had the audience on the edge of their seats. The rest of the cast, Goldy Notay, Ralph Birtwell, Keshini Misha, Bhawna Bhawsar, Chand Martinez, Lilian Tsang, Vinesh Veerasami and Peter Twose, all displayed levels of incredible talent and put on a show the audience won’t soon forget. 

Photo Credit: Johan Persson

Life of Pi is at the Wales Millennium Centre until the 21st October and tickets are selling fast. If you want to experience the wonder of theatre and experience an incredible journey of faith and endurance, this is a must-see show for you!

You can find out more information on what’s going on at the WMC on their WebsiteFacebook and Instagram.

And don’t forget to check out the official Life of Pi UK & Ireland tour websiteFacebook, Twitter and Instagram!

All photo credits to Johan Persson