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Life of Pi review: ‘Mind-blowing’ West End show you cannot ignore

Formerly at The Sheffield Crucible, multi-Olivier award-winning Life of Pi is currently resident in the heart of London’s West End, zoo included.

More of a live-action circus with cinematic chops than a play, this thrilling tale follows teenager Pi as he survives a sinking cargo ship en route to Canada from India, only to battle the ocean in a life raft with nothing but a Bengal Tiger for company.

The production journeys seamlessly back and forth between Pi’s past in India and his present in Mexico where he has reached firm ground. The big question being, how did he make it? For readers of Martel’s novel, the answer to this question delivers less impact, but those new to the story are in for a mind-blowing shock. The tale is brilliantly imaginative but also tragic; mature themes include violent death, so not recommended for anyone younger than teen.

Lighting design from Tim Lutkin and Andrzej Goulding is first class, transforming the stage into a swirling oceanic basin that switches scenes as deftly as the magical Pensieve from Dumbledore’s office in Harry Potter. Both fantastical and naturalistic, their work is a joy to behold.

BBC Eastenders star among Life of Pi cast

Cast members – including the charismatic Nuwan Hugh Perera as Pi and former Eastenders actor Ameet Chana as his father – are almost overshadowed by their puppet counterparts. Fans of War Horse won’t be surprised to learn Finn Caldwell is the Puppetry Director behind both of these outstanding productions. The choreography of the animals’ movements is so life-like, and at times menacing, that the eyes fail to even register their human puppeteers – a testament to their skill.

Critics of theatre’s power to compete in the contemporary entertainment landscape will be wowed and humbled by Life of Pi – there’s just too much talent here to ignore.

Life of Pi is running at Wyndham’s Theatre in London’s West End until 15 January 2023. To buy tickets, head to the Life of Pi website.



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