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Review | Life of Pi | The Lowry | 06/12/2023

Whether in literature, cinema or on stage ’Life of Pi’ is adored by millions globally. Pi, a child from India, finds themselves shipwrecked in the Pacific Ocean. Not only shipwrecked, but sharing a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger! This may sound pretty unbelievable, and to some of the characters it is. But this opens up the story to themes of religion, belief, interpretations of the truth and its importance.

Bringing a lengthy novel which involves a zoo of animals and is centred around a boat in the ocean is no small ask. However, the creative team behind this show have taken this challenge on with both hands.

Most successful is the phenomenal puppetry, which will make you believe in the impossible. It quite frankly makes the Lion King look like Sooty and Sweep! Richard Parker the Bengal Tiger is controlled by a rotating cast of three, not that you would notice they were there. Designed by Nick Barnes and Finn Caldwell, Richard Parker is utterly entrancing, with every move convincing you that there truly is a real tiger on stage.

The book has been adapted for the stage by Lolita Chakrabarti. Whilst the second half is strong, the first half unfortunately takes a while to get going. However when we find Pi stranded in act two, all is quickly forgiven. The last 15 minutes or so are wonderfully written with a clever twist. It is just a shame that this peak isn’t realised more often. Had the themes explored here been more overtly woven in to the narrative, they could have been explored more fully throughout.

At this performance, Pi was played by Tanvi Virmani. Having the protagonist played by a female rather than a male worked seamlessly well, with slight changes to the script. At no point was this confusing and went to prove when gender isn’t integral to the story, it shouldn’t bare heavily on casting. Virmani portrayed Pi with a youthful innocence and we felt her nervous apprehension at sharing a lifeboat with Richard Parker. It would have been even more powerful if the drama was heightened at certain points. Having said that, with some graphic moments in relation to the animal kingdom, I would strongly recommend this show to teenagers at a minimum, rather than younger children.

The adaptable set was complemented by some wonderful projections which helped transport the audience to the cruel seas of the Pacific Ocean. Whilst the floor projection wasn’t easy to see from the stalls, I would recommend sitting in either of the circles to fully appreciate this spectacle.

Although a mixed bag for this theatre goer, there is a lot to enjoy in this Olivier and Tony winning show. You will rarely see such incredible puppetry and it is worth the ticket price for that alone. Life of Pi is on at The Lowry until Sunday 07 January 2024.

Note: My ticket was gifted. Irrespective of whether a show is gifted or bought, I always ensure that my reviews are fair and based on my honest opinion alone.


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