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September 27, 2010 | by  | in Theatre |
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The Guru of Chai

The Guru of Chai is the latest work from Indian Ink Theatre Company, whose first show, Krishnan’s Diary, was a meteoric success both creatively and in terms of ticket sales. This popularity, paired with a fierce and funny intelligence, runs through all of Indian Ink’s work. After their first few shows, in which Jacob Rajan was the sole cast member, they began to experiment with larger casts. The Guru of Chai is a return to the Rajan-led solo style of their earlier work. This time, however, character changes are not done by the deft switching of masks but through the pure power of Rajan’s talent. And powerful it is.

Like all solo shows, Guru requires more than just skill from its performer. It requires charm and an inherent watchability that is more elusive than it seems—many otherwise incredibly skilled performers lack it. Not Rajan. The Guru of Chai is, above all else, a profoundly entertaining performance by a profoundly talented performer.

The concept of the work is that Hilary Beaton, the head of Downstage, thinks that her audiences have gotten lax and lazy, fat and sedentary, spending more time with technology than each other. To combat this, she has called in The Guru of Chai to heal our lives with a tale from his. While this frame and the story it contains of lost love, parrots and of course, tea, don’t really match up, and there are some quite irksome holes in the plot, you don’t really notice. You are often far too busy laughing to notice.

That is not to paint The Guru of Chai as an empty comedy. Indian Ink believe in the ‘Serious Laugh’; the serious masked in the humorous. It works.

An interesting fact that stands in this work is the fact that it was designed to play in much smaller spaces than the epic Hannah Playhouse that Downstage sits in. It was made to be performed in living rooms or community halls and one cannot help but feel that it would be better experienced in those more intimate and stripped-down environments. While John Verryt’s set (like his costumes) is beautiful and well-executed, it isn’t needed.

David Ward composed the superb score and performs it live.

The Guru of Chai
is a sublime piece of theatre, something with which any audience member can connect.

The Guru of Chai
wri. Justin Lewis and Jacob Rajan
dir. Justin Lewis
perf. Jacob Rajan
mus. David Ward
At Downstage, until 2 October
www.downstage.co.nz

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About the Author ()

Uther was one of the two arts editors in 2009. He was the horoscopier and theatre writer in 2010. Alongside Elle Hunt, Uther was coeditor in 2011.

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