Indelible performance: balletic, orchestral, disciplined and captivating - Indian Ink Theatre Company

Indelible performance: balletic, orchestral, disciplined and captivating

By: Steve La Hood

Be assured: Guru of Chai will free you from your isolation, your loneliness, your painful urination.

The guru of chai knows a lot and he loves to talk. Kutisah is his name. He is only a poor chai-wallah plying his trade on the platform of Bangalore Railway Station and business is not so good… until seven girls appear on the platform – deserted by their father – and they sing!

The story is based on the old Indian fairy tale of Punchkin Fakir and the seventh sister, Balna. What a sad story. What an extraordinary tale of love and rejection, of corruption and deception. The Guru holds us with his glittering eye and like a three-years child, we listen… spellbound.

The house is full. All the young audience members are in the front rows, and the rest of the rows are a broad cross-section of Kāpiti’s community. They love this show. They laugh, gasp and ooh. They applaud throughout and whistle and stamp at the end.

With a mouthful of buck teeth, Rajan performs 17 separate characters, flitting from one to another with consummate ease, racking up the tension of the play with a few props, a stuffed parrot and Adam Ogle playing a guitar, singing beautifully but never saying a word.

What is it that Jacob Rajan does that makes his work so indelible – like Indian Ink?

For this reviewer, it’s his metronomic precision in voice and physique that makes these one-man shows so compelling. His face and body transform from one persona to the next so deftly, so quickly that you’re sure there are indeed seventeen separate people on the stage. The audience goes ooohhh when the chicken dies… but people… there is no chicken!

This work, like all of Indian Ink’s offerings, is the product of laborious and detailed writing (Rajan and Justin Lewis), direction (Lewis), design (John Verryt, set and costume; Jeremy Fern, lighting)and those miraculous theatrical traditions of mime, commedia del’arte, farce and tragedy. Guru of Chai first appeared in 2008 after two years of writing and direction. This is no raw stand-up. This is balletic, orchestral, disciplined performance – and it’s captivating.

Go see this show. You won’t find anything this emotionally powerful on Netflix. You have to be there – in the theatre – because in the end it is a dialogue between the performance and your heart.

I say bravo.