Review: Life of Pi is an unforgettably wild journey at Milton Keynes Theatre

The stage adaption of Man Booker Prize winner Life of Pi has landed at Milton Keynes Theatre and, I’ll get straight to the point, it’s a simply stunning production.
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Sit back and enjoy every second of this story of hope and survival told through the eyes of young Piscine “Pi” Patel, the young son of a manager of a struggling zoo in 1970s India.

From the moment the first animal – a goat – appears on stage you get the sense this is going to be a masterpiece of puppetry. One by one, the jaw-dropping zoo residents are introduced to us… a giraffe, zebra, hyena, orangutan and then enters the bizarrely named (thanks to a clerical error) Richard Parker, a 450-pound Royal Bengal tiger.

The country is in chaos and Pi’s parents decide to hop on board a cargo ship to give the family (and their zoo animals) a new life in Canada.

LIFE OF PI (Credit: Johan Persson)LIFE OF PI (Credit: Johan Persson)
LIFE OF PI (Credit: Johan Persson)

After the ship sinks in the middle of the Pacific, 16-year-old Pi is stranded on a lifeboat and the story becomes a wild ride thanks to the animals he's stuck with being the only other survivors.

Eventually there’s only two of them left, and he ends up drifting with the ferocious Richard Parker who he tries to tame during a nightmare 227 days at sea. Eventually they hit land and Pi can tell a story deemed “unbelievable” by an investigator wishing to file a report on the tragedy.

Life of Pi has extremely clever interchanging scenery, be it the zoo, market, cargo ship, lifeboat or hospital.

You’re taken on a journey of brilliant special effects for the watery scenes, especially the chaos of the animals on the sinking ship, and there are many other inventive touches throughout.

LIFE OF PI (Credit: Johan Persson)LIFE OF PI (Credit: Johan Persson)
LIFE OF PI (Credit: Johan Persson)

Watch out though if you’re squeamish for one or two rather grim moments, such as where the zebra is unceremoniously ripped apart by a hungry hyena, and a similar scene involving a turtle – but this is simply portraying the realism of being close to starvation and it really is survival of the fittest.

And once his supply of biscuits has run out you know things are desperate when Pi considers finding nourishment in Richard Parker’s faeces!

It would be easy to be upstaged by the magical puppetry, but Divesh Subaskaran as Pi also gives a fantastic performance on what is his professional debut.

The show runs at MK Theatre until Saturday (September 23) and I can’t recommend it enough. Book your tickets here.