THIS theatrical adaptation of Yann Martel’s 2001 Man Booker Prize-winning novel is a real coup for the Hall For Cornwall, one which has surely benefited from the venue’s recent refurb and expanded capacity. If you’re seeking quality entertainment worthy of the West End and Broadway, look no further than this three-Tony award-winner. A colourful cast is complimented by life-size puppetry – very much de rigueur on 21st-century stages – for this epic tale of loss and loneliness, survival and faith. It’s laced with magic realism and philosophy, and comes with many brutal bumps along the way.

It’s the 1970s. Teenager Pi and his family flee India on a cargo ship with their zoo animals in the hold, only for a catastrophic shipwreck to leave Pi stranded at sea for 227 days, sharing his lifeboat with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.

Back on dry land, he recounts his fantastical tale to sceptical government officials, leading to an exploration of the thin line between truth and story-telling.

Clever lighting enables the scene to alternate seamlessly between the white starkness of a hospital room to the beautiful cerulean tones of the Pacific Ocean, where the lifeboat is encircled by shoals of delightful luminous fish and sea turtles (both destined to be dinner).

This was a very strong cast, with the central role of Pi played by two actors fresh out of drama school. We saw Divesh Subaskaran in his professional debut – he was in every single scene and drove the plotline with great skill and energy, evoking great sympathy for a young man experiencing terrible trauma.

The puppets are obviously a huge part of the appeal. Tiger, zebra, orangutan and hyena are all managed very skilfully, with human handlers fading into the background and making noises so convincing, you’ll quickly suspend disbelief and hold your breath as the Bengal tiger stalks Pi. 

Don’t be fooled, however, into thinking this is a family-friendly fun fest. These animals are as dangerous as they are cuddly, and despite an absence of realistic gore, the production doesn’t shy away from depictions of violence (there’s a particularly ugly twist at the end).

We opted not to take our 13 year old, thinking she might struggle with the deeper philosophical content and/or be upset by some of the graphic descriptions. We were therefore surprised to see rows of much younger children loaded up with drinks and popcorn. Had their parents read the book, or simply imagined it to be similar to The Lion King?

Thank goodness for comic relief from a stereotypically French cook who, combined with a Bengal tiger and some truly superb marionette skills, got some of the biggest laughs of the night from all ages.

Life of Pi continues until Saturday.