Left – Jacob Rajan. Photo – Robert Catto
Irresistible. Immersive. Ingenious theatre.
Jacob Rajan delivers an utterly sublime performance, portraying all seventeen characters in the Guru of Chai – an award winning and original work from decorated New Zealand theatre company, Indian Ink. As co-founder and co-writer, together with director, Justin Lewis, Rajan brings erudition and enthusiasm to the role(s).
Set amid a chaotic train station in Bangalore, seven abandoned sisters, one chai-wallah (our bucktoothed sayer) and one tragically besotted ageing policeman’s lives become intrinsically linked forever.
Seeing these lives depicted on stage exposes you to an extraordinary range of emotions – we’re shown humanity in the theatre with all its beauty and fragility. Rajan is completely convincing as he inhibits these characters, masterfully altering his voice, facial expressions, mannerisms and posture to convey the ensuing humour, pathos, mischief and joy.
Blending western and eastern theatrical traditions, both the accompanying soundtrack of Indian folk songs, performed live on stage by guitarist & multi-instrumentalist, Adam Ogle, and the shadow puppetry, were beguiling and evocative. Beautifully and subtly complimenting John Verryt’s, deceptively clever, minimalist set and costume design.
Rajan’s passion for the project and affection for the characters is undeniable. And after 90 continuous minutes (a marvel in itself) of acting, singing, improvising, breaking the fourth wall and miming, our unassuming chai-wallah was rewarded with rapturous applause and a standing ovation.
Why do we go to the theatre? To be entertained? To be enlightened?
To be moved? Rajan and Lewis have said “they aim to make theatre that transports you...with an experience that leaves an indelible imprint on your heart. That’s why we’re called Indian Ink.”
It won’t be forgotten.
Arts Centre Melbourne presents
An Indian Ink production
The Guru of Chai
by Jacob Rajan & Justin Lewis
Director Justin Lewis
Venue: Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne
Dates: 22 – 27 August 2017