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September 4, 2017 | by  | in Theatre | [ssba]

The Pickle King — Jacob Rajan and Justin Lewis

Where do I start with The Pickle King? Oh, I know: IT’S AWESOME AND EVERYONE SHOULD GO AND SEE IT. End of review.

Except, I want to say  more about it!

I had high expectations of this show given that it’s produced by the renowned Indian Ink Theatre Company (of Krishnan’s Dairy fame), and the promotional poster had the “Winner of the Fringe First Edinburgh Award” sticker on it. And you know what? It not only met my expectations, but superseded them.  

The show follows the story of Sasha (Kalyani Nagarajan), a blind receptionist at the Empire Hotel (“Bringing the Orient to Oriental Parade!”) who believes she is cursed because everything she loves dies. But then she falls in love with Jeena (Vanessa Kumar), and things quickly unravel when an oddly-smelling Mr G Reaper (Andrew Ford) with a passion for preserves checks into the hotel.

The show is a clever integration of mask work and clowning, something akin to what Western audiences expect of commedia dell’arte. The dramatic and ridiculous characters draw the audience in, and all of them, including Mr Reaper, find a place in our hearts. The beautiful minor characters have extravagant masks covering their entire heads, and their stories are so clearly expressed through mime it was almost sad not to see more of them. Even the faithful pianist Graham (Aryton Foote) is superbly engaged with throughout the entire show, inviting the audience to the world of the play through his music. My personal favourite character was Sasha’s aged aunt Ammachy (Kumar again), whose stereotypical characteristics instantly tickled my funny bone.

The set establishes a brilliant surreal world, with the psychedelic painted walls reminding me of school productions with loud colours painted on plywood. There are little nooks and crannies making for interesting hideaway places, which we discovered whenever a character would suddenly use them throughout the show. The set did well not to overshadow the plot nor the very animated characters on stage. The lighting worked seamlessly, at times the light spill including the audience, just another way (intentional or not) that the audience was invited into this rather peculiar world.

The balance between comedic timing and tender moments throughout the play is carefully managed, giving us Monty-Python-esque sketches as well as thought-provoking moments that show us “anything to do with the heart is risky.” And might I challenge you to see the theme of migrants ever so subtly taken seriously throughout the show; it’s the subject of most of the play’s jokes, but also takes a more serious and beautiful tone with one of the minor masked characters dancing with a globe.

I left agreeing with and adoring every aspect of the show. It is hilarious, ridiculous, and touching; you fall into the bizarreness of the world quite willingly, and enjoy the fall. It’s a great show to bring your romantic partners, family, and friends — especially that friend who doesn’t really go to theatre shows; it invites you in with open arms and leaves you with a warm stirring in your soul.

The Pickle King is on at Hannah Playhouse till September 9. Student prices available. Book tickets here.


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