Review: Life Of Pi Is Gobsmackingly Gorgeous, If A Little Lost At Sea
Dare I say I miss him? I do. I miss him. I still see him in my dreams. They are nightmares mostly, but nightmares tinged with love.”
They say the worst things happen at sea and, in this magical adaptation of Yann Martell’s Booker Prize-winning bestseller, we get to vividly experience a gripping — and occasionally gruesome — oceanic nightmare.
Pi Patel is on his way to Canada, aboard a ship with his family and his father's zoo when a storm leaves him the sole survivor; well, the sole human survivor. His animal companions dwindle until he is left alone to form a complicated relationship with Richard Parker, a very large and very fierce Bengal tiger. With food supplies diminishing, no rescue in sight and the tiger looking increasingly hungry, how will Pi survive?
Hiran Abeysekera does well in the title role but the plaudits here chiefly belong to the backstage crew: their collective efforts make Life of Pi a truly transcendent experience. Director Max Webster has put together an enticing visual feast featuring Andrzej Goulding's immersive video projections, an ingenious set by Tim Hatley, and charismatic animal puppets (not least Richard Parker) care of Nick Barnes and Finn Caldwell. Webster ensures that the whole is appreciably greater than the sum of its parts, and the finished article is gobsmackingly gorgeous.
Writer Lolita Chakrabarti retains the original book's more esoteric concepts and its ambiguous ending while keeping the action flowing. The play — much like Pi — is lean and direct. The zippy script, though, does little to flesh out the teenage castaway's philosophical and religious views or find out much about his relationship with his closest relatives. In Chakrabarti’s translation, Pi's thought-provoking discourses and his deep sense of grief are, like his family, largely lost at sea.
Life of Pi, Wyndham’s Theatre. Tickets from £27.50. Until 27 February 2022.
Last Updated 06 December 2021