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The Mourning After
Written and performed by Ahi Karunaharan
Directed by Miria George
Tawata Productions

at Circa Two, Wellington
From 16 Oct 2012 to 27 Oct 2012

Reviewed by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media], 18 Oct 2012
originally published in The Dominion Post

In Ahi Karunaharan's gentle yet compelling solo piece The Mourning After, the central character is on a journey of discovery after the death of his father.

Shekar, a Kiwi-born Sri Lankan, travels back to his ancestral village with his father's ashes. He also has a photo of a woman his father gave him and he is curious to find out who she is and thus more about his family.

What Skekar finds on his return is that the village was wiped out by the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami. The only house still standing is his family home.

Once he arrives, having first got past the Kabarakoya, a giant water lizard guarding the gate, he meets Uncle Somu and his nephew Raju, who acts as cleaner /houseboy and who keeps calling for the return of the crows.  He also meets Aunty Saroja, “with the black tongue”, always trying to get into the house, and Bala, an ex-fisherman who listens to Bizet's The Pearl Fishers and who spends his time foraging through the rubble of the village looking for family treasures.

Through these characters Shekar slowly and painfully discovers who the woman in the photo is and what connections she has with his father, uncle and the fisherman.

In a confident and consummate performance that is very physical in movement and gesture as well as being highly emotional, Karunaharan brings the characters alive as he imbues each with their own idiosyncrasies.

There is pain through the stoop of Uncle Somu and humour and delight as Raju darts about the house and in the way he calls the crows. Then, in contrast, is the snarling Aunty Saroja, who instantly turns into gentle treasure hunter Bala.

But as well as turning these characters onto real and believable people, there is also tension between the characters as he slowly identifies who the mystery women in the photo is, making this solo performance a most engaging and entertaining piece of theatre.  
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See also reviews by:
 Helen Sims
 John Smythe
 Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] (The Dominion Post);