Life of Pi – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Reviewer: Lauren Humphreys

Writer: Yann Martel

Adaptor: Lolita Chakrabarti

Director: Max Webster

Yann Martel’s 15 million copy selling, Man Booker Prize-winning novel,Life of Pi, has already had an Oscar-winning, big screen adaptation by Ang Lee and now Lolita Chakrabarti’s stage version is embarking on a UK tour. With five Olivier Awards and three Tony Awards, expectations are high.
It’s the 1970s, and 17 year old Piscine Molitor ‘Pi’ Patel (Divesh Subaskaran) is a zoo-keeper’s son from Pondicherry. The zoo is down at heel and India is in crisis. Pi and his family decide to flee the political unrest caused by Indira Gandhi’s “Emergency” and ship the entire zoo and its furry inhabitants to Canada.
The cargo boat the family (mother, father and sister) are travelling on is caught in a violent storm. The only survivors: Pi, a zebra, an orangutan, a hyena and a full-grown Bengal Tiger called Richard Parker, drift on a lifeboat in the Indian Ocean for an astonishing 227 days. Pi recalls his fantastical story to shipping company employee Mrs. Okamoto from a hospital bed in Mexico.
Tim Hatley’s set is a rich, visual feast. From the zoo in the Botanical Gardens to the teeming street market, the grim dock and the enormous cargo ship to the lifeboat rolling on the stormy ocean (beautifully realised thanks to Andrzej Goulding’s video design). It is multi-levelled, ingeniously and seamlessly transforming from one place to the next. It is quite simply exquisite.
Created by puppet designers Nick Barnes and Finn Caldwell, the four-legged characters play an integral role. Most impressive among them, and rightly so, is the realisation of the Bengal Tiger. It moves with menace, grace and ferocious power at the hands of the skilled puppeteers.
As the story unfolds, the originally affable Pi, the religiously curious, multi-faith experimenter, ponders faith and belief and ultimately truth, and asks what is better, the truth or a good story? Especially when the good story covers unimaginable horrors.
Central to the success of the piece is the portrayal of Pi, and Divesh Subaskaran in his professional debut, is outstanding. Puckish and curious, brave and lost, he tackles the roller-coaster of emotions with a deftness belying his years. He is an actor of incredible potential. The ensemble too are excellent, the stage teems with life as they tackle multiple roles, each perfectly characterised.
The innovation and vision in the staging and the exceptional cast add to the theatrical experience but it is the fact that this is good old-fashioned storytelling beautifully told that makes this utterly unmissable. I would urge you to get a ticket while you can.

Runs until 22 June 2024 | Image: Contributed

The Reviews Hub Score

Utterly unmissable

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The Reviews Hub - Scotland

The Scotland team is under the editorship of Lauren Humphreys. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. We aim to review all professional types of theatre, whether that be Commercial, Repertory or Fringe as well as Comedy, Music, Gigs etc.

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