The Pickle King: Perfect Recipe

By the Scotsman

PICKLE: Fact and fiction are put into the blender to create a beautifully poignant piece of theatre.

New Zealand company Indian Ink, creators of the 1999 Fringe hit show Krishnan’s Dairy, can only enhance their reputation for original and enchanting theatre with this beautifully conceived play. Set in the Wellington hotel of ageing Ammachy and her partially blind niece Sasha, it tells a story that interweaves real biographies and events to generate the most elaborate and brilliant fiction.

LG Pathak, who went on to found the great Pathak pickle empire, arrived in Britain in penury after great travels. The Dow chemical company carries on its name the irredeemable stain of the Bhopal disaster. Western societies, New Zealand included, continue to be suspicious of the professional qualifications of people from “less developed” countries, forcing highly-qualified immigrants into the most unskilled, poorly paid work.

These facts seem like an unlikely starting place for a drama that combines a touching love story with an intelligent and hilarious celebration of human resilience. However, Indian Ink’s writers Jacob Rajan and Justin Lewis have a delicate, sophisticated touch, and have moulded the real-life dramas into one of the most gentle, unusual and poignant pieces of theatre on this Fringe.

Things seem to be going well for the nascent love of the humorously irascible hotel manager Sasha (fabulously played by Ansuya Nathan) and porter Jojo (performed superbly by the versatile Rajan himself), until the arrival of a pompous Anglo-Indian with the sinister name of G Reaper.

As Sasha’s astonishing, tragic past catches up to her, the hotel chef’s mouse is killed and everyone’s life is sent into flux.

Combining Kim Merry and writer Lewis’ outstanding masks, subtly stylised physical performance and emotive comic humour, Pickle is further evidence of the Auckland company’s extraordinary capacity for turning immense and serious stories into the most affectionate and thought-provoking theatre.