The Pickle King at the War Memorial Theatre

Magic realism based on the Bhopal gas tragedy.

Magic realism based on the Bhopal gas tragedy.

THE PICKLE KING: To help celebrate its 20th anniversary, Indian Ink theatre company will bring its tragicomic romance The Pickle King to Gisborne’s War Memorial Theatre in three weeks time.
“It is a story about having the urge to love even when everyone you love dies,” says director and company co-founder Justin Lewis.
At the heart of the play is Sasha Daniels who lost everyone she loved in a chemical explosion in India. Sasha believes she is cursed because people she loves die, says Lewis.
“She believes she should never give over to love. She has a fear of loving.”
The Pickle King is funny, sad and true. Humour in the show touches people’s hearts, “then we can slip in something more serious”.
TRAGICOMIC LOVE: Actor Kalyani Nagarajan plays Sasha Daniels, the romantic heart of Indian Ink theatre company’s production, The Pickle King, which will be staged at the War Memorial Theatre next month. Picture supplied

THE world’s worst industrial disaster provided a starting point for New Zealand theatre company Indian Ink’s multi-award winning show The Pickle King.

“The 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy was the inspiration for the show,” says director Justin Lewis. “Often when we make something we want some true life stuff and some fictional stuff. The Pickle King is a story about having the urge to love even when everyone you love dies.”

Actor Kalyani Nagarajan plays Sasha Daniels, the young woman with that urge. When Sasha was blinded by the chemical explosion she also lost everyone she loved in the inferno. She now lives with her overbearing Auntie Ammachy in a Wellington hotel which is where the entire play is set.

Sasha is the romantic heart of the story, says Nagarajan.

“She a beautiful character to play but that is a challenge for me because she was blinded in the explosion.”

Indian Ink productions are renowned for their mastery of masks that enable a small cast to play several characters.

Where other actors wear half masks, Nagarajan was given only a nose, another challenge for the actor.

“With the nose you have to work harder to bring the character to life. The mask heightens everything so with the nose it is all about technique. With a mask you move in a straight line physically and emotionally.”

The mask, however, opens up another dimension in acting.

“You turn into something completely different. The mask gives you so much, you can enter that character. When an actor embodies the mask’s character they come to life.”

Indian Ink productions differ from plays by writers who invest their works with realism and the illusory device of a fourth wall between the stage and audience, says Nagarajan.

“You have to emotionally invest in your character but you as an actor are always a step away. You as a performer are aware you are in a show.”

That Indian Ink productions do not pretend not to be theatre is underlined by the use of large white masks known as Basel masks. The cast wear these in their role as hotel guests to introduce the show.

“Theatre for me is magic realism,” says Nagarajan.

THE world’s worst industrial disaster provided a starting point for New Zealand theatre company Indian Ink’s multi-award winning show The Pickle King.

“The 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy was the inspiration for the show,” says director Justin Lewis. “Often when we make something we want some true life stuff and some fictional stuff. The Pickle King is a story about having the urge to love even when everyone you love dies.”

Actor Kalyani Nagarajan plays Sasha Daniels, the young woman with that urge. When Sasha was blinded by the chemical explosion she also lost everyone she loved in the inferno. She now lives with her overbearing Auntie Ammachy in a Wellington hotel which is where the entire play is set.

Sasha is the romantic heart of the story, says Nagarajan.

“She a beautiful character to play but that is a challenge for me because she was blinded in the explosion.”

Indian Ink productions are renowned for their mastery of masks that enable a small cast to play several characters.

Where other actors wear half masks, Nagarajan was given only a nose, another challenge for the actor.

“With the nose you have to work harder to bring the character to life. The mask heightens everything so with the nose it is all about technique. With a mask you move in a straight line physically and emotionally.”

The mask, however, opens up another dimension in acting.

“You turn into something completely different. The mask gives you so much, you can enter that character. When an actor embodies the mask’s character they come to life.”

Indian Ink productions differ from plays by writers who invest their works with realism and the illusory device of a fourth wall between the stage and audience, says Nagarajan.

“You have to emotionally invest in your character but you as an actor are always a step away. You as a performer are aware you are in a show.”

That Indian Ink productions do not pretend not to be theatre is underlined by the use of large white masks known as Basel masks. The cast wear these in their role as hotel guests to introduce the show.

“Theatre for me is magic realism,” says Nagarajan.

The Pickle King, War Memorial Theatre, May 10-12

The Indian Ink theatre company is running a Mother’s Day Facebook competition on the Gisborne Herald Facebook page April 20-26. A winner will be drawn on 26 April.

The prize is a double pass to The Pickle King performance on Wed, May 10, 7.30pm at the Gisborne War Memorial Theatre.

Simply like this post and tag someone you would like to take to The Pickle King.

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