There are many times in our lives when we contemplate what has been and why it happened. Sometimes our memories are vague and we confuse fantasy and reality.
In Life of Pi our main character has plenty of time for reflection. After a tragic accident, he alone survives. But how did he manage it? And what really happened on that lifeboat?
The book is a slow, contemplative read, as a lot of it is focused on one human character and a tiger. Yet the play, adapted by Lolita Chakrabarti and directed by Max Webster, manages to bring the story to life and even injects some discreet humour.
The beginning introduces us to the characters and to the brutality that will become commonplace. Considering that the animals are giant puppets, the death of Buckingham the goat is surprisingly horrific. Then we see Pi’s physical and spiritual journey as he drifts along in the boat.
Hiran Abeysekera is excellent. His timing is impeccable, providing amusing moments that were lacking in the book. His interpretation of Pi is energetic, imaginative and raw; at the same time he manages to provoke emotion.
But it is the puppets that really make this production stand out. Finn Caldwell and Nick Barnes have done a remarkable job. Each is exceptionally lifelike and the puppeteers (and actors) have brilliantly captured each creature’s movements.
Tim Hatley’s set is fantastic, particularly the transitions from hospital to ocean and the related elements of the water surrounding the boat. Its fantastical elements work really well and provide the stage with suitable drama and intrigue.
Some of the supporting actors do let the production down, but overall this is a thought-provoking adaptation that is much better than the book itself.
Reviewed by Michaela Clement-Hayes