Life of Pi at Wyndham’s Theatre
Philosophy and spirituality meet survival thriller in a wondrous extravaganza worthy of its West End venue. Life of Pi is the unbelievable story of Pi Patel, a young man from India. When his family feel that the country is too politically turbulent (though this is never really explained except in a general disdain towards foolish politicians, meanwhile coming across as quite privileged so that the issues they are facing are unclear), they decide to move the zoo they own to Canada, taking all their animals aboard a cargo ship bound for the other side of the world.
When the ship goes down in the Pacific Ocean, Pi finds himself stranded at sea on a lifeboat for 227 days. But he is not alone: a zebra, an orangutan, a hyena and a Bengal tiger have made it onto the lifeboat with him.
Truth is relative, the nature of reality, you can write your own story, faith and belief – these are themes of the show (though some probably aren’t as well explored as in the novel it is based on), all wrapped up in an astonishing tale.
There’s more than a little bit of magic conjured by the staging. The space at first appears rather plain, but soon begins to transform into all manner of rich settings. And these transitions are choreographed to perfection with seamless beauty.
The animal puppets are even more stunning creations, with the performers bringing them to life flawless in every subtle movement and sound. This is one of those moments that prove what big-budget theatre can really do, and the stunning experiences it can create.
Most of the human characters, on the other hand, aren’t really of note – a little one-dimensional, perhaps, with not enough stage time and performed without the care and detail afforded to the animals. The exception, of course, is Pi himself, portrayed by the very talented Nuwan Hugh Perera. Even as a titular character, it’s difficult to steal the show when your co-star is a Bengal tiger, but Perera gives it a good go and certainly stands out as a remarkable actor across from the others.
While there are imperfections that can be picked at and unravelled, ultimately Life of Pi is big, it’s beautiful and it’s a spectacle. And there’s just no chance anyone sees this play and doesn’t enjoy it.
Photo: Ellie Kurttz
Life of Pi is at Wyndham’s Theatre until 15th January 2023. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.