Review: LIFE OF PI, Wyndham's Theatre

Running at Wyndham's Theatre until January 15

By: Oct. 12, 2022
Life of Pi Show Information
Get Show Info Info
Review: LIFE OF PI, Wyndham's Theatre
Get Access To Every Broadway Story

Unlock access to every one of the hundreds of articles published daily on BroadwayWorld by logging in with one click.

Existing user? Just click login.

Life of PiA cargo ship sinks in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, causing misery and pain to all involved. Amongst the survivors is a sixteen-year-old boy named Pi; accompanying him is a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan, and a Royal Bengal tiger - all of whom are attempting to co-inhabit a small lifeboat. It sounds extraordinarily unbelievable, but surely even in the most surreal there is truth to be found. It is up to Lulu Chen and Mr Okamoto - lawyers hired by the ships firm - to get to the bottom of this magical mystery.

With contrasting interrogation styles, the two poke and prod Pi with varying invasive tactics. Like the animals of the jungle, they take on differing traits; Kevin Shen's Mr Okamoto is direct and doubtful, whilst Phyllis Ho's Lulu Chen appears more caring for what Pi's been through. Together, they seek the truth. But what is truth and what is fiction when trauma lingers in the body? The body holds more than the mind, as evidenced by Pi's physical reactions to certain dark memories.

Based on one of the most extraordinary and best-loved works of fiction, Yann Martel's hit novel has been adapted for the stage brilliantly by Lolita Chakrabarti. Under the direction of Max Webster, the show won 5 Olivier Awards, including Best New Play, and now, with a new cast, it seems set to carry on wowing people at every moment. Nuwan Hugh Perera is the inquisitive lead in this latest production, and he is sensational; perfectly finding the balance of a young boy grown up too soon, mixing it with humour and wit. It's a very challenging role, and he finds the balance of vulnerability and joy superbly. The ensemble that supports him are equally brilliant.

Through the event flashbacks, Tim Hartley's set design takes us from vibrant India to a cold ship full of people searching for a better life. The staging is flexible to allow small bits of set to move in and out, whilst also transport some large pieces through the action. Finn Caldwell's movement allows the ensemble to float through these shifts with ease. When you combine this imagery with Andrzej Goulding's extraordinary video design, Tim Lutkin's lights, Carolyn Downing's sound, and Andrew T. Mackay's composition, you are really immersed into the atmosphere. The detail of the world building from the creative team is impeccable - there isn't a fault I can find.

Webster's direction reveals excellent stage trickery that occurs in front of our very eyes; the flooring conceals secrets and moments of wonder. It is to be expected though, that the real moments of magic land in the onstage puppetry, designed by Caldwell and Nick Barnes. Alongside the animals mentioned above, we see birds and fish too - each one of them created with such detail, and puppeteered with extraordinary ability. And it's no surprise that the tiger, named Richard Parker, and voiced with such playfulness by Kazeem Tosin Amore, is the highlight of the evening.

The show trended earlier this year, when it was announced that the seven-person puppetry team were nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Olivier Award. The notification originally didn't name the group, which rightly caused a social media uproar, seeing as they really are the DNA of the play. In this iteration, Daisy Franks, Owain Gwynn, Romina Hytten, Elan James, Rebecca Killick, Tom Larkin, and Tom Stacy play Tiger Head, Hind and Heart with an enormous strength and power; it is genuinely breath-taking to watch them move with such precision. The animals are just as alive as the humans, who disappear to allow the creatures to grow. The space is energised.

The entire production is sensational from start to finish. I left feeling so inspired and impressed. What excites me most about this show is the reaction from the audience. People of all ages are amazed, audibly showing their excitement for the work. In addition to this, I appreciate how Chakrabarti doesn't shy away from the horrors of the play. Like the human world, the animal kingdom is cruel; not everyone gets on, some prey on others weaknesses, and in order to survive, we need to summon our most inner strength. That's what Pi did. It's a great lesson to us all.

Life of Pi is currently booking until 15 January 2023

Photo credit: Ellie Kurttz

Add Your Comment

To post a comment, you must register and login.