Kiss The Fish – Beguiling Simplicity

By Dominion Post

THE Opera House stage hasn’t been dressed in such wonderful colours in a long time. Multi-hued sari material has been made into a backdrop of curtains, a patchwork of Indian vibrancy.

It is the backdrop for Blue Monkey Island. ‘‘So National Geographic,’’ says the one non-Indian character, an American, who doesn’t have to put up with the poverty and the grind of getting enough food to eat. She has other ideas, however, about the pesky monkeys.

Indian Ink, Justin Lewis and Jacob Rajan’s theatre company, has made its reputation for excellence with its productions that are performed using puppetry (remember the duck?), masks, dance, slapstick, mime, and song to tell simple stories, in this case a modern folk tale, with wide appeal. They have many elements of an English pantomime.

The basic story of Kiss the Fish takes the familiar themes of progress versus tradition, the complications of love, and the ties of family life. It is a story told with a beguiling simplicity; at times comic, at times touching, always surprising.

A poor rice farmer is offered a large amount of money for some land and water rights by Kingsley, a rich Dutch entrepreneur, who wants to build a luxury holiday resort. The rice farmer refuses the offer because he hates the Dutch and, in fact, all foreigners.

Four actors play 11 characters with great verve, as two of them do as monkeys. The masks make it hard to tell who plays the monkeys, but they are really quite scary when they simply stand and stare menacingly at the audience.

The fifth member of the cast is the musician (David Ward) who sits at the side of the stage throughout surrounded by instruments which he plays with consummate skill. He also reacts with sly comic talent to the events of the story, particularly when he is photographed as ‘‘local colour’’.

So hats off to Julia Croft, Nisha Madhan, James Roque and Jacob Rajan (whose Catholic priest, Fr John, is a marvellous characterisation) for providing yet another piece of technology-free theatrical magic.