The much-vaunted, award-winning theatrical experience that is The Life of Pi has finally made it out of the West End and landed at The Lowry.

The problem with any show surrounded by so much hype is that it often proves difficult to live up to all the expectations.

Messenger Newspapers: The Life of Pi (Picture: Johan Persson)

First the good news. Life of Pi remains a stunning visual treat. The Lowry is a much larger stage than any you’re likely to find in the West End and the show has been adapted to suit its new festive home.

Read also: 'I want anyone coming to the show to go wow'

In an instant crashing waves and torrential rain suddenly appear. A clinical hospital room is transformed into a bustling, colourful market, endangered zoo or even an ocean under a myriad of stars.

Then there are the puppets, arguably the real stars of the show. Indeed, it almost seems wrong to call them puppets; they are living, breathing characters in their own right adding so much to the story and the overall enjoyment of the piece.

Based on the novel by Yann Martel, Life of Pi has been heavily adapted for the stage by Lolita Chakrabarti. Millions have read the book and I suspect millions have been left confused by it.

Chances are a lot of people leaving the theatre may also have many questions about what they have seen and what it actually meant.

Pi is the sole survivor of a shipwreck which claimed the lives of all his family as they left strife-torn India for a new life in Canada.

Recovering in hospital he’s questioned by an earnest shipping agent and a consular representative about what happened. His tale involves being adrift in a lifeboat with only a hyena and zebra and orang-utan and a tiger for company. Is he hallucinating? Is his other explanation of what happened really the truth?

This may be the festive production but don’t expect any tinsel or jolly holiday nonsense.

Life of Pi deliberately raises more questions than it answers. Personally I felt it strays at times into cod philosophy, rather like an A-level student trying to show off to the grown-ups. But it does raise interesting questions about religion, man’s place in the world, our relationship with the animal kingdom and each other.

Messenger Newspapers: The Life of Pi (Picture: Johan Persson)

No review worth its salt would be complete without further mention for those puppets. Leading the way is Richard Parker, the Royal Bengal Tiger who is just totally compelling. The three puppeteers who bring him to life are amazing. You know he’s not real, you can see them operating him and yet you also know there’s a tiger on that stage.

But he’s just one of half a dozen or more animals which grace the stage ranging from a turtle, shoals of fish, a giraffe and even a rat.

A word of caution for parents. Don’t see the word puppets and think this is a child-friendly show. It’s about as far removed from The Muppets Christmas Carol as you’re likely to get.

Don’t believe me? Ask the pet goat who appears at the beginning of the production.

At times it’s pretty visceral and deliberately pulls no punches although I’d like to have seen the amount of menace ramped up even more.

As Pi, it’s amazing to think that this is Divesh Subaskaran’s first professional role. He’s a charming, believable character trying to come to terms with what the world has thrown at him

Messenger Newspapers: The Life of Pi                                    (Picture: Johan Persson)

Life of Pi shows what can be achieved by thinking out of the box. Rather like Warhorse a decade or so earlier, it challenges our thinking about puppets and their inter-action with actors.

It’s also a brave show which unashamedly asks questions of the audience and doesn’t try to neatly tie everything up at the end, pat us on the head and send us on our way.

Spectacular, even jaw dropping at times. But perhaps the storyline doesn’t quite match up to the effects. But then that would be difficult. Still an experience to be savoured though.

Life of Pi runs until January 7. Details from