Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director; produced playwright (21 plays). Scripts pub. Currency Press. She worked as actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate was Head of Drama/Teacher, NMIT; Coordinator of Prof. Writing/ Editing, Swinburne Uni. Read her reviews here or: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
Saturday, 26 August 2017
The Guru of Chai, Aug 22, 2017 ****
Written by Jacob Rajan & Justin Lewis, Indian Ink (NZ)
Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne, until Aug 27, 2017
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Aug 22, 2017
Review also published in Herald Sun Arts online on Wed Aug 23, 2017, and later in print. (probably Fri Aug 25, 2017)
Jacob Rajan weaves a spell over the audience with his masterful
storytelling, impeccable comic timing and charismatic performance in the funny
and moving production, The Guru of Chai.
In this one-man
performance inspired by the Indian fairy tale, Punchkin, Rajan plays narrator, Kutisar, an
impoverished, cheerfully philosophical chai-seller, but he also populates the
stage with a parade of 16 other beautifully and simply wrought characters.
When the buck-toothed Kutisar encounters seven, parentless sisters in the
bustling Bangalore railway station, he encourages them to sing for their keep
and enlists Punchkin, the rotund and benevolent policeman, to protect the
With consummate skill and
minimal props, Rajan transforms himself with the flick of a scarf, the tilt of
his head or a lilt in his voice, and transports us to Bangalore station and the
lanes of New Delhi, conjuring the colours of India and the aroma of chai and
Rajan balances broad comedy with poignant, romantic
storytelling and pathos tinged with Kutisar’s gentle cynicism and yearning for
a better life.
By addressing the audience directly, Rajan flirts, teases and gently draws individual audience members into Kutisar’s
vivid world and responds with lightning speed to surprises and interruptions,
including a rogue, ringing mobile phone.
The production, directed
and co-written by Julian Lewis, blends Western and Indian theatrical traditions, and the live music,
played by Adam Ogle and composed by David Ward, echoes Indian sitar and chants.
Kutisar assures us at the
start that he will improve our sad, little lives with his tale of romantic
heroes and dangerous villains, but his story has the same mix of romance and
tragedy that is evident in Western fairy tales.
It is a delight to witness the theatrical enchantment and accomplished performance of Rajan as The Guru of Chai.
Writers Jacob Rajan & Justin Lewis Director Justin Lewis Dramaturg Murray Edmond Lighting Designer Cathy Knowsley Composer & Sound Designer David Ward Set & Costume Design Concept John Verryt Musician Adam Ogle