Candlestick: Enchantment

By The Evening Post (Wellington)

Humour, charm and simplicity underpin the the tale that is spun in The Candlestickmaker.

The audience is beguiled by theatrical magic into accepting a story about the rite of passage of a young man who is awoken from his secure little world to one of mystery and instability, where a duck can sing a Hungarian gypsy song, and a 300 year-old woman can cook him a curry so hot it could kill him.

He learns the difference between sight and vision, and that the vanity of human wishes is a tragi-comedy played out before cosmic forces of unimaginable power.

Sunil is a 19 year-old Indian New Zealander with a Kiwi accent and a tendency to say “wow” or “awesome” when impressed by his uncle’s house, where he is a guest during is OE to southern India, complete with a copy of a Lonely Planet travel guide in his luggage,

His stay coincides with the pending visit of the Nobel Prize-winning astrophysicist and discoverer of black holes, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar.

Uncle Rohan, a retired university professor, hopes to dazzle his important visitor with his life’s work and become a Nobel Prize winner too, though this is unlikely as he seems to think Australia and New Zealand are the same place.

John Verryt has designed a setting of great beauty and ingenuity. From tall bamboo poles lining both sides of the stage are hung small baskets containing burning candles; props and furniture are suspended above stage and are lowered on pulleys when needed. Paul O’Brien’s lighting enhances the atmosphere, as do the musical accompaniment of Craig Lee and the lovely singing of Kate Parker, who seems to make herself invisible when operating the magnificent paper-eating duck.

Jacob Rajan plays all the human characters with the skill and warmth he displayed in Krishnan’s Dairy. His use of masks is as brilliant as ever, and his switching back and forth between Sunil, his uncle and the old woman as they quarrel over a lost page from the uncle’s life-work brought a round of applause.

At the curtain call, the whole company – and it is very much a company – was given a rousing reception for what I think can be best described as an enchantment.