Adapted from the book, Life of Pi is a beautiful piece of storytelling, full of vibrancy and wonder. Chirag Benedict Lobo led the cast as Pi on this performance. We meet him in a hospital where he is being questioned about the ship he was on and how it sank. The rotating stage and realistic floor projections allowed a seamless transition from the hospital to the open sea. A lifeboat appears as if from nowhere and the joy Chirag Benedict Lobo brings as he jumps into the stage floor, magically disappearing into the ocean, sent a flurry of delight through the audience. The sound, designed by Carolyn Downing, created the world at sea for us along with Tim Lutkin’s lighting design and Andrzej Goulding’s video design.
In addition to the strong lead role, the ensemble moments really shone in this production. A beautiful shoal of neon fish and a kaleidoscope of butterflies were effortlessly created by the whole cast. The puppets were of course the highlight of the show, designed by Nick Barnes and Finn Caldwell. The life-sized puppets felt incredibly real, the detail from the tail to whiskers, especially on Richard Parker the Bengal tiger, was exquisite and really helped the puppeteers to bring them to life. The physicality and ability of these performers was incredible. For some, it meant spending the majority of the show almost on all fours under a puppet. As well as being lost in the story, moments of watching the puppeteer’s technique was equally fascinating. The animals were also all voiced by the puppeteers; the roars, whinnies and the bleat of a goat were all completely believable. A special mention must go to Owain Gwynn who played cook and the voice of Richard Parker in this performance. A brutal yet charismatic character was formed for the cook. Then as the head and voice of Richard Parker he created a pompous and intellectual seeming French tiger, reeling off what he hoped to eat.
The ending of the show unfortunately felt a little over explained. The audience could see the symbolism used between the two stories Pi tells and it didn’t need the extra explanation. Some of the acting without puppets leaves a little to be desired and didn’t match the physical skill in the show. Chirag Benedict Lobo however pitches his performance just right, with the perfect balance of storyteller and truthful characterisation. Pi’s family, played by Ameet Chana, Davina Moon and Tanvi Virmani also created a beautiful bond, making the loss even greater.
A beautifully visual, impactful and magical show.
Currently booking until 15th January 2023, https://www.lifeofpionstage.com/
Reviewer: Caroline James
Reviewed: 12th October 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★