Tuesday, May 28

Life of Pi – Hull New Theatre

I was almost lost for words – written and vocal – after watching Life of Pi at the Hull New Theatre on Tuesday night. Not a good state for a reviewer to be in.

Faced with the question “How do I describe perfection?”, back home, I made myself a coffee, opened a bag of chocolate buttons and got my brain into gear.

Life of Pi tells the story of 17-year-old Indian boy, Pi Patel, who, after political disruptions in his homeland, seeks out a new life in Canada, with his family.

However, the Tsimtsum, the cargo ship they embark upon, sinks in a terrible Pacific Ocean storm, leaving Pi stranded on a small lifeboat with a hyena, zebra, orangutan and a Bengal tiger – animals being transported from his family’s zoo.

Pi (the amazing Divesh Subaskaran) loses his family – mother (Goldy Notay), father (Ralph Birtwell) and sister (Keshini Misha) – but they often reappear to him during the 227 days he is shipwrecked, giving him the strength to carry on.

The traumatised boy tells his story from his hospital bed where he is being treated – and what a story.

Photo: Johan Persson/

The shipwreck kicks off his adventure – more like a misadventure – against the backdrop of probably the best stage setting ever created.

The stark medical ward changes to a world of colourful butterflies, a giraffe, a pesky goat, hyena, orangutan and a Bengal tiger, in the blink of an eye.

It’s here I must mention the jaw-dropping puppets – I consider them works of art – whose puppeteers worked tirelessly to bring to life. They were both inside and outside these amazing creations which gave the impression of being made out of driftwood.

Other “works of art” included a shoal of fish, and a turtle – not forgetting the aforementioned giraffe, goat and butterflies.

The puppets almost took my mind off any dialogue being spoken, so mesmeric were they. The very talented puppeteers were on show, but were invisible at the same time, if that makes sense.

Also mesmeric was the drum beat of the Indian music, constantly playing in the background, adding to an already loaded atmosphere.

This story highlighted one boy’s faith, hope, endurance and will to live against all odds.

His battles – mental and physical – with the Bengal tiger on the lifeboat is tense stuff and it’s these breathtaking interactions that aids the lad’s survival.

I never read Yann Martel’s book Life of Pi but did see the 2012 movie. This stage version – on its first ever UK tour – beats the movie hands down in my opinion.

Subaskaran as Pi, dressed in white vest and baggy white trousers, never leaves the stage, no mean feat, in a role that is moving, energetic, joyous and tragic to name just a few emotions. And he plays every one with realism.

The supporting cast are every bit as talented, many of them in dual roles.

I couldn’t fault a thing in this production and judging by the standing ovation at the end, I wasn’t the only one. The glorious, ever-changing stage setting, colourful visuals, lighting, costumes, rousing music, super-talented actors and the stars of the show, the state-of-the-art puppets, not forgetting their puppet masters, all added up to sheer perfection.

Running until Saturday, March 30th, 2024; 7.30pm nightly with 2.30pm matinees on Thursday 28th and Saturday 30th. Tickets cost from £24. Call (01482) 300306 or visit www.hulltheatres.co.uk

Reviewer: Jackie Foottit

Reviewed: 26th March 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.