Life of Pi on Tour at the New Victoria Theatre Review: A Painful Story Vibrantly Brought to Life

Wednesday 4 October 2023

Life of Pi (Tour) 
New Victoria Theatre 

Before last night I had no prior exposure to Life of Pi. I hadn't read Yann Martel's acclaimed novel or watched Ang Lee's award-winning film. Approaching the play with no preconceptions, I found it enchanting. While it may not resonate with everyone, I personally adored the captivating production by playwright Lolita Chakrabarti. It held my attention from the very beginning to the end of the performance. I found myself deeply engrossed in Pi's perspective on faith, humanity, survival, brutality, and mankind, and I even wished there hadn't been an interval as I was so enthralled.

The narrative revolves around Piscine "Pi" Patel, the son of a zookeeper in Pondicherry, who claims to have survived a shipwreck on a life-raft with a Bengal tiger as his companion.

Some readers might initially think this story isn't their cup of tea, but let me assure you that the magic lies in the simplicity of the stage design, the visual effects, and the lighting that interweaves the tale. The incredible collection of large puppets portraying the captive animals from the zoo adds to this magic.

The play centers around Pi, portrayed by Divesh Subaskaran in his impressive professional debut. Divesh truly shines in this role, immersing the audience in Pi's world. I was particularly impressed by his performance, seamlessly transitioning from a mischievous young man-boy to an overwrought, delusional individual grappling with the world's cruelty. He later revealed a kinder, gentler side, yearning to believe in the world of storytelling and escape the horrors of the boat's events. The two actors who questioned the young Pi about his experiences greatly complemented Divesh's portrayal, contributing to the unraveling of the story with their strong performances.

Credit must be given to the entire cast. The stage was always vibrant with energy, the performers transforming it in seconds as Pi recalled flashbacks of his voyage. The mastery of the remarkable puppeteers, animating butterflies, shoals of fish, a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan, and the Bengal tiger, was truly commendable. Special acknowledgment goes to those who skillfully maneuvered the Bengal Tiger, creating a sense of predatory readiness on the boat.

For me, the imaginative world that offers solace from the world's atrocities, coupled with the magical animals brought to life through outstanding puppetry, are the true stars of this show. This made the theatrical event a thoroughly enjoyable experience for everyone.

Reviewed on Tuesday 3rd October 2023 by Glenys Balchin

{AD PR Invite- tickets gifted in exchange for honest review}