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April 8, 2013 | by  | in Arts Theatre | [ssba]

Theatre – Indian Ink’s Jacob Rajan

An interview with theatre company Indian Ink’s founding partner Jacob Rajan, writer and actor of upcoming shows Krishnan’s Dairy and guru of Chai showing at Downstage Theatre.

Where did the original concept for Krishnan’s Dairy come from?

Krishnan’s Dairy was an exercise at drama school (Toi Whakaari) and part of the course requirement was to come up with a 20-minute self-devised piece of theatre.

I researched dairy owners and about five dairies in Wellington and sort of stumbled across a story. Prior to that I had been introduced to mask, half-mask in particular, by a guy named John Bolton—I was desperate to use mask in my work and so I found a way of doing this. The end result was a 20-minute piece that was really well received by my tutors who encouraged me to extend it when I left drama school.

I later got together with my director, who I’ve been working with ever since Justin Lewis [another founding partner of Indian Ink] and we extended that to 60-minute run. It was one of those plays that became more than the sum of its parts, and it’s pretty much had a fairytale life
ever since.

Krishnan’s Dairy is a pretty popular show, but what can audiences new to Krishnan’s story expect?

The exercise at drama school was a monologue, but I wanted to get away from the monologue to actually portraying conversation on stage as realistically as possible. The end result is a couple that are drawn to each other. The mask changes are so quick—less than a second. I developed a system where I could actually change masks seamlessly from one character to another. So the illusion is of more than one person on stage basically.

I heard you’ve showed all around the world?

We took it to Edinburgh, won a French festival award. We’ve been to Singapore, Australia and the US.

Let’s flip over to Guru of Chai, how does that fit in with Krishnan’s Dairy?

If you saw both of them you would see the arc of our metaphor over the years. Guru of Chai is still a solo piece with a live musician. In a way
it’s far more sophisticated than Krishnan’s Dairy. Sophisticated and simple as well—the masks have been reduced down to a set of teeth.

Essentially it’s a story-telling piece that takes you on an epic generational trip through modern India, and I guess we’ve ended up with a
romantic thriller at the end of it, but told by one person—our Guru, our storyteller, and he plays a host of characters [about 17] within the story that he’s telling.

So Guru of Chai somewhat developed from an old Indian folktale right?

We stumbled across an Indian folktale. But it was a rambling thing that went on for far too long. However, there was something within it that really appealed to us. It has this really dark morality. Things happen in it that as a fairytale I really wouldn’t be telling my children.

We worked with Murray Edmund [associate professor of Drama Studies at University of Auckland], brainy dude, who said that the story, as it is, is about princesses, kings and queens and doesn’t have much cachet with a modern adult audience. So he said: “Why don’t you take the parts that you like, deconstruct it and reassemble it in modern India?” When we did that it started to take off. So the seven princesses that were abandoned in the jungle by their father now become seven sisters abandoned at a railway station.


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