The Pickle King
By: Madelaine Empso, Regional News. 30 August 2017
The Pickle King follows ex-gypsy Sasha (Kalyani Nagarajan), a widow who believes she has been cursed. Everybody Sasha loves has passed away, but she does still have her outspoken aunty Ammachi (Vanessa Kumar), who runs the Empire Hotel on Oriental Bay. Love is blossoming in the dinghy hotel, much to Sasha’s horror. George Reaper (The Pickle King himself, played by Andrew Ford), and Jeena (Kumar) might have something to do with this, but I shan’t give any more away here.
The Pickle King features moving music (live pianist Ayrton Foote), striking stage pictures, and a very clever, multi-functional set by John Verryt, whose colourful costumes are at times delightfully farcical. The music is aurally captivating, creating a world one can get lost in with ease. Foote’s two short singing forays did momentarily lift me out of this world. I found the lyrics distracting and unnecessary in that they did not much contribute to the story; up until then, my imagination had been allowed to contribute to the offstage narrative.
The cast is beyond outstanding. Kumar’s performances as the (mostly) softly-spoken, sweet Jeena and the outrageous, raucous Ammachi prove the whopping capacity of her range and talent. Nagarajan is a total powerhouse, transfixing us all with the depth of emotion she brings to her role. Ford is aptly rambunctious and repugnant as The Pickle King. In addition to their leading roles, each actor also rises to the challenge of full and half mask work with flair and gusto. Otherworldly sequences featuring a chef with a mouse and a guest with a globe are gut-wrenchingly beautiful.
Indian Ink’s aim is “to make theatre that is beautiful, funny, sad, and true.” This could not have been achieved to a higher standard in The Pickle King. This play features heart-breaking hilarity and uplifting sorrow in one breath. I was moved to laughter, to tears, and to warming revelations that I will carry with me always.