Life of Pi – December 2023
What? Life of Pi
Where? Chichester Festival Theatre
When? November 16 – December 2
What’s the show about? The show is about a girl called Pi and it is her recount of the ship, the Tsimtsum, sinking along with the rest of Pi’s family and how she survived.
She starts the recount by setting the scene in an Indian zoo, where she lived. The government had had a few arguments with one another and India became a dangerous place to live. There is also a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker, who is new to the zoo and he eats a goat, who does nothing to her, and this makes Pi annoyed.
The family decide to move to Canada as India has become too dangerous. They do this by boat. On the boat they had put the zoo animals in container ship crates. The ship’s cook is quite the butcher. Pi turns down the offer of food as she and her family are vegetarians. They then meet the friendly sailor, who is also Indian.
The ship sinks in a storm and everyone, except for her, drowns and goes down with the boat. She then finds a lifeboat with an injured zebra lying on the deck. The Bengal tiger, Richard Parker, also finds the boat and is hungry. The hyena, from the zoo, is on the boat as well, and is also looking for a meal. It’s a very dangerous place for any child to be. The hyena eats the zebra and after a few days, Richard Parker eats the hyena.
She is telling this story to the Canadian and Japanese government’s officials in her hospital room after being saved after 229 days at sea after the ship sunk. Back to the recount…
For the next few weeks, it is just Pi and Richard Parker. One day, when Pi cannot see anything because she was hallucinating through lack of fresh water, she thought that Richard Parker was talking to her in a French accent. This was my sister’s favourite part of the show and probably mine too because it was funny.
The government representatives don’t believe her and they ask her to tell them the real story with the proper facts and so she does.
In this version the ship also sinks and Pi’s dad and brother both drown. She also finds a lifeboat but this time the cook from the ship and the Indian sailor are on the boat as well. Then her mum comes across the boat and joins them. The Indian sailor’s leg is broken and Pi’s mum is the best doctor she can be to him until the cook suggests amputating the leg. He amputates it himself using his butcher’s knife. After a few weeks, the cook kills Pi’s mum. Pi then gets so angry at the cook that she also ends up killing him as well. It’s all pretty gruesome and very sad.
This time, the government representatives believe the story more than they did the first recount Pi told them. Pi asks if it matters which story was true because they both involve her losing her family, the ship sinking and all of the crew and animals dying. They agree it doesn’t really matter, but that the one with animals is the better story.
What was really good about it? The set looked really good with the lifeboat being on set most of the time. The hospital room/bed looks good also. The projections on the stage looked like the water was real and when the characters touched it, the water actually rippled. There were also sea creatures along the stage, or at least it looked like that anyway. The storm also looked menacingly good.
The puppets were very nicely done. The main puppet was Richard Parker but other puppets, like the hyena, needed more than one puppeteer. Another puppet was the turtle. All of the acting was good and I enjoyed watching the show.
What could be better? It was a bit too gory for me to give it 5 stars. I know it had to be in there because that’s what’s in the book but I didn’t really enjoy those bits.
What my Dad thinks… This was so good. I didn’t know the story beforehand as I’ve never seen the film or read the book, but I adored it. There are some quite dark and graphic moments, so it’s not suitable for younger children really, but my 8 year old thoroughly enjoyed it. I wouldn’t have thought children younger than that should see it, really, but we were careful to explain what to expect to both of the children and that some of the animals die in the story, so it will have sad moments.
The puppetry (and acting generally) was fantastic. The staging, including excellent projections, was really cleverly done. The reoccurring theme of religion is handled really well and it made for an excellent conversation starter with the kids. For me, the plot turned into a modern day parable that hits really hard was the bit that will stay with me. As humans we often find it more palatable to use animals in stories in place of the humans to explain some of the more extreme behaviours. Overall, it was simply brilliant. The national tour continues into 2024, so go and see it if you can.
Star Rating… 4 Stars