It takes a lot of stage craft to perform a one person show, but Jacob Rajan’s ebullient charm and skill instantly captures the audience in his highly entertaining one person show, Paradise or The Impermanence of Ice Cream, delivering 80 minutes of sheer theatrical joy. 

Rajan has almost no one but himself to create the story. He is assisted only by a large vulture puppet, its operator, a small, low rostrum on a bare stage and a screen for projected images to depict changes of scene and mood.

With a nod to the ancient Persian Epic of Gilamesh, the work of American cultural anthropologist, Ernest Becker and references to contemporary environmental issues, Paradise or the Impermanence of Ice Cream is as delightful as it is thoughtful; as playful as it is serious.

Co-written by Rajan and Director, Justin Lewis, the play deals with concerns about mortality and the desire to find meaning in life. One insight comes from the main character Kutisar’s time working in a kulfi (ice cream) shop. Kutisar concludes that life is like kulfi: transitory and to be savoured. Another is that it is possible to be both heroic and venal at once.

The show opens in the present, somewhere in Australia. Kutisar is dying while getting ready to go to work at Harvey Norman. Like Abraham Lincoln in George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo, Kutisar finds himself in the Bardo, or Limbo, that unspecified place where he moves from the earth to the next stage.

An earlier time of his life flashes before him as he confronts his reckoning about whether or not he has been a good person. He is now back in Mumbai as a poor, 23 year old chaiwaller.

Kutisar befriends Meera, a Parsi girl, whose grandfather has just died, leaving her to run their kulfi shop. She takes Kutisar to a sacred Parsi burial place, the Towers of Silence, where their dead are traditionally left to be eaten by vultures. The only problem is that vultures in India and Pakistan are mysteriously dying (the extinction of vultures is a very real environmental disaster). So Kutisar and Meera embark upon an adventure to figure out why.

Rajan’s broad, physical performance style draws on Comedia dell’arte traditions to tell the story of Kutisar’s early days in Mumbai. He portrays seven different characters with large, comic strokes, using mime and marvellous physicality to play Kutisar, Meera, a stern uncle, a doddery old aunt, an eccentric professor and others.

The only other performer is puppeteer/puppet maker, Jon Coddington, who dispels any previous prejudices against vultures with his humane creation of an enormous, very beautiful raptor puppet. Through Coddington’s masterful puppetry, the vulture is a glorious combination of spirituality, solemnity and humour.

Amidst all the death and destruction, Rajan’s irrepressible performance, and the youthful enthusiasm of the two main characters he portrays, make Paradise or the Impermanence of Ice Cream an uplifting and diverting night at the theatre that will appeal to a wide range of audiences. Playing at the Lennox Theatre in Parramatta until January 22.

Event details

Indian Ink presents
Paradise or The Impermanence of Ice Cream
by Jacob Rajan and Justin Lewis

Director Justin Lewis

Venue: Lennox Theatre | Parramatta Riverside Theatres, NSW
Dates: 17 – 22 January 2023
Tickets: $49 – $59

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