Review: Guru of Chai

My week was made that bit more extraordinary when I was treated to a trip to India.  The amazing thing about this statement is I never actually physically went but such is the magic that I experienced at the opening night of Guru of Chai.

After getting over the fact that the Rangatira at Q had magically transformed itself AGAIN, I got settled into my seat and was fully expecting to immerse myself in a very good play.  What I experienced was so much more than that. From the minute Jacob Rajan and his right hand man, David Ward took the stage I was completely enthralled and entertained.

Guru of Chai is an engaging and compelling tale about a humble chaiwallah and how seven abandoned sisters appearing at his chai stand proceeded to change his life forever. Delivered in the first person, the charming and jovial tea seller welcomes us into his world, inviting us to embark on the journey with him.

The play involves a rich tapestry of creative storytelling, colorful sound, a little bit of magic, clever shadow play and even a spot of puppetry.  Whether intentional or not, it certainly challenges the boundaries and any preconceived notions you may have had on what defines a stage production.

The most impressive thing about this play is Jacob’s outstanding performance.  What I didn’t know going in was that this play was essentially a cast of one.  Apart from playing the titular character, Jacob also effortlessly embodies every single other character that appears in the story.

The way in which he skillfully transitions between the different personas just blew my mind.  Every character is fully realized with their own individual personality, distinct voice, set of mannerisms, and even differing postures.  This “skillful schizophrenia” is truly a work of art – Jacob is undeniably an extremely talented and gifted character actor with great stage presence.

Between Jacob’s charismatic showmanship, array of props at his disposal and the colorful set, the play is definitely visually mesmerizing.  However I must stress that the production is just as impressive to hear as it is to see.

Employing an eclectic blend of banjo-playing (tuned to sound like a sitar), haunting songs and innovative sound effects (from an electronic drum machine to a simple plastic bag), David is the ultimate human prop.  His musical accompaniment complements the narrative perfectly – be it helping to affect tone or to increase tension – elevating and giving the production another texture to the story.

Superb theatrics and spectacle aside, the hero of this play is the story itself.  The script is incredibly dynamic and the multi-layered narrative is superbly written, weaving together a good dose of  humor, elements of culture and just the right amount of drama and action.  To me, a good story is one that entertains, speaks to the heart and resonates and this could not ring truer with Guru of Chai.  The story is unpretentious and honest and just keeps you wanting more.

I cannot recommend Guru of Chai enough.  It is a theatrical masterpiece that is heartwarming, captivating and surprisingly insightful. It is a story about a single man, but it is also a story about life, love and loss.  This is truly a unique experience that everyone should not miss out on!

Thank you, Indian Ink, for this absolutely phenomenal piece of theatre that I will not soon forget – I can’t wait to see Krishnan’s Dairy next!

The Whimsical Banana rates Guru of Chai: 5/5 bananas!

Guru of Chai is playing at my favorite performing arts space, the stunning Q Theatre, until July 21st.  For more information and to book tickets, click HERE.

This review is also featured on the Q Theatre website.

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