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Spellbinding Life of Pi returns by popular demand

Be quick to catch theatrical phenomenon at The Lowry this week

Outstanding, stunning, superb, breath-taking, visually spectacular. Just a few of the superlatives used to describe the West End ‘theatrical phenomenon’ that is Life of Pi.

Now on tour and back at The Lowry in Salford for this week only, every description is absolutely spot on, and yet somehow none seem to do this remarkable work of theatrical story-telling justice. Pi is all of the above and yet truly so much more.

The only way to really understand it is to experience this totally immersive theatrical treat for yourself.

Yes, the acting is just incredible, each character playing and relaying the adventure with the life and death urgency and energy it deserves.

Yes, the special effects, including light, sound plus slick and clever scene and set changes are simply astonishing. This really is a ‘visual feast’ of colour to behold. There is sensational choreography too.

But topping it all of course are those animal puppets, their world-class and world-leading puppetry masters injecting another level of magic, as the whole combines and seamlessly intertwines to create an absolute wonder.

Little wonder too that Life of Pi is a winner of virtually every major play award, including five Oliviers.

Lolita Chakrabarti’s theatrical adaption of Yann Martel’s book, which won the Man Booker Prize back in 2002 and has sold over 15 million copies worldwide, is a startling undertaking in itself, depicting the epic journey of endurance and hope. You may also have seen the film!

Pi is stranded on a lifeboat with four other survivors from his family’s zoo, a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan, and a Royal Bengal tiger. Time is against them, nature is harsh, who will survive? The special effects at sea are simply amazing.

Be warned though, this journey can be brutal. This is about the toughest of choices in life and death circumstances and the scars it can leave, and some scenes are so emotional the production is not recommended for under 12s.

Yet within the brutality that is life for us all, animal or human, there is an inner beauty and depth that ultimately reaches out and shines through it all, whether you are religious or not.

Life of Pi first opened to critical acclaim at the Crucible theatre in Sheffield in 2019. International commitments for the show include its North American Premiere at the American Repertory Theater at Harvard University, followed by its Broadway premiere at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theater where it opened in March this year.

A European tour will follow the UK and Ireland tour and there are plans as well for a tour of Australia and Asia.

Life of Pi won five Olivier Awards in April 2022. As well as Best New Play, and Best Actor for Hiran Abeysekera (the original Pi); in an historic first for the Olivier Awards - the seven performers who puppeteer the Bengal Tiger 'Richard Parker' were collectively awarded Best Actor in a Supporting Role. The production also picked up awards for set and lighting design.

Opening to celebratory reviews on Broadway the production has added Tony Awards to its list of plaudits for Best Scenic Design, Best Lighting Design and Best Sound Design.

Divesh Subasjaran plays Pi in the UK Tour version. Having trained at RADA & Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, this marks his first professional debut. And wow - what a debut.

But each and every one of the cast (and the puppets) deserved every moment of the standing ovation they received at last night’s performance.

If you haven’t been lucky enough to see Life of Pi on stage yet, be quick to book at The Lowry with showings all this week until Saturday.

Review by Nigel Skinner

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