Review: Krishnan’s Dairy

I left Guru of Chai completely blown away and utterly amazed at how one man effortlessly brought seventeen different characters to life while another creatively used sound to evoke our imagination and transport us to a different place.  This week I was thrilled to be back in the Rangatira at Q to experience another dose of Indian Ink theatrical magic.

Krishnan’s Dairy may be fifteen years old but it sure doesn’t feel like it.  The narrative is still as refreshing and contemporary as if it was written yesterday.  Weaving together copious amounts of comedy, two love stories and a touch of folklore, Krishnan’s Dairy is a heartwarming and endearing slice-of-life tale that is both entertaining and moving.

Gobi and Zina Krishnan are immigrants from India who have moved to New Zealand with their newborn child in the hopes for a better life and future.  They own a little corner store dairy and like a fly on the wall, we watch this couple as they go about their everyday business.

I thought Gobi and Zina were quite the comical pair; you can’t help but laugh at the charming shopkeeper and be amused at his wife’s antics.  I especially enjoyed Gobi’s interactions with the customers and Zina’s hilarious reenactment of a story involving Ganesh, the elephant deity.

Jacob Rajan’s masterful storytelling and superb showmanship along with David Ward’s exceptional guitar playing and accompanying sound effects draw you in to this immigrant family’s world immediately.  Once again Jacob plays many faces and this time he does so quite literally, seamlessly switching between characters through the swift changing of masks.  He does this so skilfully that the transition is smooth and not at all distracting.

What I found most impressive was how he convincingly pulled off conversations between Gobi and Zina.  The rapid back and forth mask-swapping, different voices and changes in body language were all executed so perfectly that it’s truly mind-boggling that there is actually only one actor on stage.

Unlike Guru of Chai, the set is minimal and sound genius David works his magic mostly hidden from sight.  A standout for me was the clever incorporation of mime into the story.  Jacob mimes perfectly in sync with David’s impeccably timed sound effects – it’s really quite impressive to see.

I also really liked the way in which the backstage was used as part of the set too – I thought it was a nice little nod to those old school stores that are run by families who usually lived either behind or above the store.  Using both light and shadow or even just simply moving from one end of the stage to the other, it created another theatrical element to the story.

Krishnan’s Dairy is a beautiful and brilliant masterpiece by the Indian Ink Theatre Company and considering it’s longevity, is already proving to be a timeless classic.  If you haven’t already seen it, put simply: you need to.

The Whimsical Banana rates Krishnan’s Dairy: 4/5 bananas!

Tickets are going like hot cakes so make sure you get in quick!  The season at Q concludes on August 4th.  For more information and to book tickets, click HERE.

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.