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Life of Pi | Wolverhampton Grand

Based on Yann Martel’s novel, Lolita Chakrabartai’s adaptation of Life of Pi sails to the stage of the Wolverhampton Grand to take the audience on an adventure like no other. It follows the story of shipwreck survivor, Piscine ‘Pi’ Patel, played flawlessly by Divesh Subaskaran. His innocence and lightness kept the heavier moments afloat on a childlike energy, while executing his emotional, mental and physical deterioration to a tee. He lead the cast with strength and a level of trust that you could see ripple through every member on stage.

The ensemble were not only strong in their performances, but also physically. Their clever use of physical theatre made transitions from scenes utterly seamless, and gave the genuine illusion of being thrown around at sea. But this is just the beginning of their talents. This show is a puppetry masterclass with puppets designed by Nick Barnes and Finn Caldwell, with movement direction by Caldwell, and these are used to perfection, bringing each animal to life from the top of their ears to the end of their tails. While the performers who work the puppets (the tiger puppeteers in particular) bring their animals to life with ease, their real skill is how they manage to become almost invisible to the audience.

The star of the show is undeniably the stage craft. While the visuals on stage initially seem simple and sterile, it unfolds to be anything but, constantly surprising the audience with a different door that explodes into a whole new world, allowing us to entire into Pi’s life, in stark contrast to the hospital he now tells his tale from. Accompanied by the energetic pulse of Indian music (Carolyn Downing), and fiery lighting (Tim Lutkin), we are carried from the harsh reality of Pi’s hospital room, to the warm and aromatic comfort of his family’s world, to the deadly and wild torments of the sea. The use of projection (Andrzej Goulding) was so effective, there were times in which you felt yourself questioning if water really was being thrashed around stage. An utter triumph.

Though this production rode high on positives, there is still room for improvement. Family was a huge theme in this piece, and it felt that the connections and relationships weren’t really established and felt a bit rushed, though this may have been to make room for the epic second act, which felt a tad too long.

In all, Life of Pi is a visual spectacle with moments that will keep you on the edge of your seat. You’ll laugh, you’ll hold your breath and you’ll leave answering the question ‘is the story better with animals or without?’

Life of Pi plays at Wolverhampton Grand until 27th April - for more information and tickets, you can follow the link here.


Gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Ellie Kurttz


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