The Candlestickmaker intertwines astrophysics, the aspirations of an Indian family and lore into a captivating performance. Set in a family home of the Nobel Prize winning astrophysicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, who discovered the theory behind black holes, the play follows the story of three main characters. Sunil, a young Indian New Zealand university student, who has set out with his Lonely Planet in hand to visit his Uncle CJ Rohan in southern India. CJ Rohan is a retired university lecturer who is awaiting the arrival of his esteemed uncle, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar (known in America as the candlestickmaker). The superstitious Rohan hopes to gain his uncles’ recognition for his life’s work, a paper blithely setting out to explain the importance of what’s in a name. And finally, Kilayani, the three hundred year old cook who also serves as living memory of this family’s history. Kilayani has been witness to the families coming and goings for seemingly centuries and is now awaiting the return of her love foretold.
Jacob Rohan deftly plays all characters; through the frenetic changing of character through mask, he draws the audience in from the beginning. Rohan is joined on stage by a musician and a silent actor who is also puppeteer to an English speaking, Hungarian singing duck. These colourful threads of the performance are brought together by a stunning and versatile set. Tall, willowy lengths of bamboo from which woven candlelit baskets hang tower from one side of the stage, overhead, props are suspended from boards suspended by a rope and pulley system which is anchored down to the opposite side. It is amongst these ropes where the musician sits alternating between providing musical accompaniments and manipulating the pulley setting. Initially, the set with ropes and poles joined from one side to another, is reminiscent of the deck of a tall ship and the performers the crew for the journey.
The Candlestickmaker offers the audience insight into many journeys, the physical, the mythical, emotional, cross-cultural and scientific. By being instantly and convincingly transported to southern India, Rohan, invites the audience into a tale where the mythical and the real are meshed. A journey which seems more familiar than not, yet one knows that by the interval, there must be an impending disaster, a disruption in the chain of events. To formulaic perfection, the tale follows the science, as slowly the plans and desires of the CJ Rohan, Sunil and Kilayani begin to implode in the second act as the decisions and actions of each character imposes upon the others, resulting in a classic comedic tragedy.
Jacob Rohan’s The Candlestickmaker is a fresh piece of enchanting theatre leading the pack. It embraces the themes and narrative of the modern New Zealand. The same themes and narrative have relevance for Australia, yet when the performance ends, one is left wondering where these voices are in Australian theatre and do they get enough support or exposure? In the meantime, we await more from Indian Ink Theatre Company.
QPAC & Indian Ink
Venue: Cremorne Theatre, QPAC
Dates: 5 to 9 Aug 2008
Tickets: $15.00 to $32.00