Paradise or the Impermanence of Ice Cream
Written by: Jacob Rajan and Justin Lewis
Directed by: Justin Lewis
Te Auaha, 25th May 2021
Reviewed by: Madelaine Empson
One minute, Kutisar is putting on his Harvey Norman uniform and the next he wakes up in limbo, unsure whether he got his pants on before suffering the medical event that landed him there. We soon discover that the fate of the former chaiwallah depends on how he behaved on Earth. Kutisar begins to flash back to his younger days running a kulfi shop in Mumbai with Meera, whose people – the Parsi community – have a tradition called a sky burial where they lay their dead out in the towers of silence to be eaten by vultures. When Meera’s grandfather dies, the vultures don’t come. It turns out, in this one-man show and in real life, the birds are facing the fastest mass extinction of all time.
Playing Kutisar, Meera, and five other characters – a hilarious highlight of which is Meera’s pompous aunty – is Jacob Rajan, who wears a set of oversized teeth as a form of mask to channel multiple larger-than-life personalities with joy and immeasurable talent.
I never lose my place thanks to Rajan’s gift for physical theatre and the transitions, made seamless by composer David Ward’s sound design and D. Andrew Potvin’s lighting design. These production elements transport the audience not just to different times, but through different worlds, where set designer John Verryt’s projected abstract images clarify the setting while enabling our imaginations to run wild. And then there is Jon Coddington’s exceptional, remarkably lifelike puppet, a vulture that at first terrifies me but that I soon learn to appreciate, to love, to mourn. The dancing helped!
Indian Ink’s Paradise or the Impermanence of Ice Cream is an example of a team working together as one airtight unit where each part is vital to the whole. The whole, in this case, is a poignant production that I could not take my eyes off and won’t be able to stop thinking about for a long time to come.