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Jessica Rood reviews a stunning adaptation of the tale of boy stranded at sea with a Bengal tiger for company

Max Webster’s stage adaptation of Yann Martel’s Life of Pi captivated the audience from start to finish. Having only seen the film, I was in awe of Lolita Chakrabarti’s ability to bring this complex story to life on stage. At the Theatre Royal, Bath this evening, we journeyed through the magical landscapes of India, traversed the vast Pacific Ocean and found ourselves deeply moved by nature.

Life of Pi follows Piscine Molitor Patel, known as Pi (Adwitha Arumugam), on his extraordinary journey of survival after the cargo ship bound for Canada, carrying him and his family, sinks. Stranded alone in the Pacific Ocean, Pi is joined by an unusual companion—a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. Pi must use his knowledge of animals, his intellect and his faith to survive.

(Photo: Johan Persson)

For me, one of the striking features of this play was the puppetry. We are introduced to this element early on, as Pi takes the audience back to his family zoo. The puppets, operated by two or three puppeteers, brought the animals to life with remarkable realism. Each animal’s movements—breathing, running or shaking—were timed precisely and executed with care, embedding each puppet with its own personality and spirit.

The puppeteers’ ability to evoke such lifelike performances was commendable. The movement in the play was certainly a highlight, each step having a rhythmic quality, making standard movement feel like a dance. The energy flowed through the actors, with each person moving in harmony with the others. This cohesion captured the atmosphere of every scene, whether it was fear, anger, joy or excitement.

(Photo: Johan Persson)

Adwitha Arumugam portrayed Pi’s youthful charisma perfectly, charming the audience from beginning to end with an impressive range of emotion, that held the audience’s attention throughout. Each cast member contributed to the play’s energy, ensuring that the rhythm and atmosphere were effectively conveyed to the audience.

The stage itself was immensely impressive, featuring a versatile set that transitioned seamlessly from the bustling streets of India to the cold isolation of the Pacific Ocean. This transformation was achieved through creative design, such as windows opening to reveal merchant stalls that turned into beautiful babul trees.

(Photo: Johan Persson)

The use of two lights on either side of the stalls mirrored the stage lights, effectively making the audience feel a part of the performance. The craftsmanship of the set, lighting, and sound was breathtaking. Every flash of light, atmospheric sound or scene change added to the performance, creating a truly immersive experience.

Overall, the production reflected the novel’s themes of religious dilemma, survival in the face of adversity and what it means to be a storyteller. This performance made a lasting impression on me and I strongly recommend booking a ticket. With the level of artistry and skill on display, it would be a shame to miss such a wonderful show right on our doorstep.

Life of Pi appears at the Theatre Royal Bath until Saturday 25th May. To book tickets contact the Theatre Royal Bath Box Office on 01225 448844 or visit