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A taste of magic, Guru of Chai is a joy which makes you laugh and touches your heart.

By: Katie Lavers, 22 May 2017

This one person show is an evening spent with the wonderful performer Jacob Rajan in which he combines magic, shadow play, puppetry, comedia del’arte and singing, all held together by some wonderful writing.

Guru of Chai is a powerful retelling of an Indian traditional tale called Punchkin in which the essential elements of the story are retained, but the story is updated and placed in a contemporary context. The show is created by Indian Ink, a New Zealand theatre company which centres around the creative partnership between performer Jacob Rajan and director Justin Lewis, who co-wrote this show. Previous shows from Indian Ink include Krishnan’s Dairy, The Candlestick Maker, The Pickle King, The Dentist’s Chair. Kiss the Fish and The Elephant Thief and the company has won numerous awards including two Edinburgh Fringe Awards, plus three Production of the Year Awards and two Best Play Awards in New Zealand.

Guru of Chai is set in an Indian railway station, and the central character is a bucktoothed Indian chai wallah who we watch making tea during the show, carefully hiding the way he makes it from the audience to protect his secret recipe. We are introduced into his world and we meet seven sisters who have been left behind, abandoned on the railway station by their father. The sisters have a special gift: they are all wonderful singers.The story unfolds through the relationship of the chai wallah to these seven sisters. The play, which appears to cover around 15 years of the characters’ lives, is full of word play, humour, insight and unexpected twists and turns. All the characters are portrayed by perfomer, Jacob Rajan who moves from chai wallah to small child to Minster of Police with complete conviction.

There are moments of great physical theatre here, such as the extraordinary cock fight played out by Jacob Rajan in which one of his hands attacks the other in a flurry of squawking and aggression; wonderful moments of comedy in the writing such as when he is trapped at a wedding reception with the announcer at the railway station only to discover that the unintelligble sounds that he has been listening to coming out of the railway station speakers, is in fact the actual way that the announcer speaks; lovely shadow play such as when we watch a parrot flying in front of the moon created by just the shadow of the performer’s hands; great moments of audience interaction, and wonderful writing with twists and turns in the story which keep you guessing right up to the end.

Guru of Chai is a taste of the real magic of theatre, a wonderful performer telling a story which makes you laugh, shows you magic, and touches your heart.

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