OzAsia Festival Review: Paradise or the Impermanence of Ice Cream

FIFTY+SA's Arts Reviwer Dave Bradley shares his thoughts on the beautiful, funny, and sad, Paradise or the Impermanence of Ice Cream for OzAsia Festival.

Indian Ink Theatre Company’s new play is an ambitious, sometimes deeply mysterious study of the persistence of memory, the enigma of endangered vultures and, of course, fate: after all, it’s inspired by Ernest Becker’s Pulitzer Prize-wining The Denial Of Death.

And yet this is so alive.

Co-written by star Jacob Rajan and director Justin Lewis, this takes place on the Space’s simple stage, as Rajan’s continuing character Kutisar lies in some sort of limbo, and is picked at by a vulture (a puppet created and operated by Jon Coddington). He awakens and wonders where he is with panicky humour, fretting about whether he’ll be late for his job at Harvey Norman in Adelaide (although the location changes as the show travels the world), and then he flashes back to a Mumbai disco some 30 years previously, as the screen behind comes alive with flashing Bollywood colours.

Kutisar meets a young Parsi woman named Meera, and it’s here that Rajan begins to move back and forth between portraying eight or so characters, a formidable achievement which never becomes confusing. Meera has been forced to take on a job at the family’s kulfi shop (which makes some sense of that title), and the slightly hapless Kutisar joins her, giving up his gig as a chai vendor. And regretting it.

Rajan’s extraordinary performances aren’t mere caricatures: they’re rendered via quick-fire speech and accent changes, bodily movement and posture, and often different utilisations of his false teeth. And yet, even as it becomes more clear what is really going on here, the play still remains strikingly strange, especially as it finds serious sympathy for the plight of the vanishing vulture.

Playing until Saturday 21 October at Space Theatre


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