Indian Ink’s national tour of their highly acclaimed, award winning play, The Pickle King written by Jacob Rajan and Justin Lewis who also directs it, kicked off at the Napier Municipal Theatre on Thursday May the 4th. The magical modern day fairy tale was brought to life on a versatile set by an exceptionally talented cast and technical crew.
“Once the finest hotel in town, the Empire is now as faded as the dreams of the piano player who haunts the lobby,” the publicity tells us. “Ammachy runs the Empire with an iron fist and has one big problem; her niece is almost blind and she refuses to get married. Sasha knows she must not marry because she is cursed – everything she loves dies.” Until she finds true love, that is.
The gifted young actors play multiple roles with finesse and vitality. The audience is drawn into the Empire hotel by their skilful portrayal of the characters, and are filled with both humour and pathos as the plot unfolds. Vanessa Kumar plays an endearing and determined heart surgeon/porter Jeena, Kalyani Nagarajan is a stroppy and independent Sasha, and Andrew Ford is a rather pompous, menacing George Reaper. Ayrton Foot is the onstage pianist Graham who establishes the mood and sets the pace of the action throughout the play.
In true Indian Ink tradition, masks are worn effortlessly by all the characters. These include false noses, Commedia half masks, and the very impressive oversized white Basle masks worn by the gentle, silent characters who tell a sad love story of their own.
The painted set is compact and very versatile. A surprising number of acting spaces are easily created by the actors as the scene is changed by them to ensure continuity and flow. The sound and special effects crew operate the magical moving and flying props with slick precision.
To ensure that the play is relevant to today’s theatre goers, The Pickle King, has been updated by Rajan and Lewis. However, the universal issues of globalisation and immigration, death and the search for true love are themes that are as relevant today as they were when the play was written 15 years ago. The key phrase of the play, “What is worth preserving?” is rather poignant because The Pickle King is an enchanting play about human resilience, which should be preserved by being seen by audiences throughout New Zealand.