Greenwich Theatre was packed. Not a seat left unoccupied as Yann Martel's story of Life of Pi unfolded on stage. A simple uncomplicated set that accentuated the performers. It's been a while since I've been to an act where the characters are the main focus and not flashlights or other technological devices. Satin blue sheets are scene of the ship wreck, a raft ingeniously built before our eyes and an island of puppet meerkats. Brilliant.
Pi (played by Tony Hasnath) is a curious, innocent boy who has an undeniable interest in religion. All religions. We see him dabble in Hinduism, Islam and Christianity. All he wants is to love 'God'. That said, however, and as someone who has read the book twice over, although Tony puts in a wonderful performance, in a way he fails to deliver Pi's character as it would seem towards the end of the book. This Pi was made to seem too gullible, too innocent, and in a way wimpy (which undeniably goes well with the first part of the book) however, this Pi fails to project the maturity that Pi reaches at the end of the book brought on by his hardship. The power of the book lies in the transformation of an innocent boy to a mature man (reserved, quiet, reflective and yet stronger in belief and wisdom). This failed to transpire on stage.
The parents of Pi, played by Melody Brown and Royce Ullah, were the true stars of the show. Without their very apparent confidence and experience on the stage, it could have been a very childlike performance about animals in a boat. But they truly held it together and their presence and charisma on stage are undeniable.
The play had its funny moments particularly by Mark Pearce who plays several roles ranging from uncle to priest to Sufi and then later the zebra. Several of the other performers alternate wonderfully between roles and when it is the animals who take centre stage, none is better represented than the Bengal tiger, Richard Parker, played by Taresh Solanki. The acting skill is undeniable, the costumes fantastic, and the animal movements breathtaking.
It is obvious that all the actors are truly passionate about the tale. A passion well translated onto the stage particularly enhanced maybe by the fact that most of the performers are of Indian background. Some have been to India and have personally visited the landmarks highlighted in the book.
All in all a brilliant performance that will leave you wondering if not questioning (maybe even doubting) your own beliefs and views of the world.