Jacob: "Theatre requires people to come into a room together. It’s a ritual that connects us to a fundamental part of being human." (Photo: Ankita Singh)
What's Paradise or the Impermanence of Ice Cream about?
Paradise or the Impermanence of Ice Cream is a kaleidoscopic comic drama that takes the audience into the mind of a man struggling to avoid death as he is flung between limbo and his past where a rebellious young woman holds the key that may guide him to paradise. I play eight characters and am terrorized by a life-sized vulture puppet.
What inspired its production? What was the genesis of the play?
Two years ago, Justin (co-writer and director Justin Lewis) and I went to Mumbai and were inspired by life on the streets, the food, the music, the people and a story so strange we felt compelled to create a play about it.
The story involved vultures and their connection to the Parsi community. We were introduced to sky burials – the Parsi practice of feeding their dead to vultures – but what intrigued us even more was learning that by the end of the 1990s nearly all of India’s millions of vultures had vanished and nobody knew why. The answer to that mystery and our love letter to Mumbai, whose traffic we loathed but whose kulfi (ice cream) and culture we loved, is contained in this play.
The character played by Jacob is terrorised by a life-sized vulture puppet operated by puppeteer John Coddington (Photo: Ankita Singh)
Why do you think it’s important for New Zealand audiences to be exposed to theatre from/of/about India?
Theatre requires people to come into a room together. It’s a ritual that connects us to a fundamental part of being human. We enter as strangers and we leave as an audience having shared in a story. I believe the more varied the stories we are exposed to, including ones from/of/about India, the more we can celebrate our differences as well recognise our shared humanity.
What is it about Indian Ink Theatre Company that makes it unique and so successful over such a long period of time?
Justin and I share a love of mask and a love of story. We also delight in “the serious laugh” – opening audiences’ mouths with laughter in order to slip something serious in. All of those principles are employed in telling original stories that are beautiful, funny, sad and true. When we get it right, it resonates with audiences universally.
Jacob: " I believe the more varied the stories we are exposed to, including ones from/of/about India, the more we can celebrate our differences as well recognise our shared humanity." (Photo: Ankita Singh)
What do you hope an audience will take away from the performance – what would you like them to think about/feel…?
I hesitate to label what I want the audience to feel or think. Once the play is written it doesn’t really belong to me. Its meaning will be filtered through the life experience of the individual who sees it. There will be as many meanings and feelings as there are people in the theatre. But my hope, always, is that the play is a catalyst to having their imaginations awakened and their souls nourished.
How has the past year been for Indian Ink – was it a struggle navigating Covid and lockdowns?
The funny thing about running a theatre company is we tend to operate at a low level of crisis at the best of times! But, seriously, for a business whose raison d’etre is mass gathering, Covid presented a massive challenge.
Our 2020 Domestic and International tours were cancelled, but we were determined to pay out our artists and hold on to staff. We did that and we put our energy into creating new work. That focus not only led to a development season of Paradise or the Impermanence of Ice Cream but also the workshopping of a new play Dirty Work.
2021 was set to deliver our largest domestic tour ever. We felt very blessed to be in one of the few countries in the world where that was still possible. Although the latest lockdown cut things short it made what we had achieved even more precious.