The Pickle King: Worth Preserving

By Peter Larsen (City Mix)

Let us be spellbound in our seats. Let us be carried away by the magic of a fairytale visited upon the miraculous mortals in The Pickle King. Following on from the unprecedented success of Krishnan’s Dairy and The Candlestickmaker, Indian Ink’s third (and final) instalment of their loose trilogy is set to make a magic carpet of the Maidment’s stage.

Set in the faded glory of Wellington’s Empire Hotel, it is a struggling business run with a tight fist by Indian migrant Ammachy who has one big problem: her near-blind niece Sasha (played with subtle finesse by Ansuya Nathan), believing she is cursed, refuses to marry. The hotel’s porter, Jojo (the mercurial shape-shifter from Candlestickmaker and Dairy, Jacob Rajan), is a recent Indian migrant who is actually a heart surgeon unable to find vocational work. One night Mr. Reaper aka Death (Carl Bland of Street Legal) checks in and triggers a love story that swings from lechery though hilarity to a heart-felt finale.

John Verryt’s set is as full of surprises as the story itself and with simple and striking theatrical effect the tale unfolds complete with Wellington weather effects, a chef whose pet mouse is constantly on the loose and a globe that drifts majestically over the audience. The crafting of story and spectacle is as seamless as the deft interchange of masked characters that populate the hotel’s lobby. Mark Lipman accompanies the ensemble from the lobby piano as the taciturn patrons reveal their sub-plots with the charming physicality usually reserved for silent cinema.

This show is theatrical magic. If you’ve seen Candlestickmaker and Krishnan’s Dairy be prepared for a step up. The story is seamless, the performances earnest and full of charm, the set a jack-in-the-box and the themes, whilst building on Indian migrant culture, reveal a New Zealand full of hope and wonder.