MRS KRISHNAN’S PARTY

TAPAC Theatre, Western Springs, Auckland

06/12/2017 - 14/12/2017

ONEONESIX - 116 Bank Street, Whangarei

08/08/2018 - 11/08/2018

Meteor Theatre, 1 Victoria Street, Hamilton

15/08/2018 - 18/08/2018

Theatre Royal, TSB Showplace, New Plymouth

06/09/2018 - 08/09/2018

Te Auaha, Tapere Nui, 65 Dixon Street, Te Aro, Wellington

19/09/2018 - 29/09/2018

Baycourt X-Space, Tauranga

23/08/2019 - 25/08/2019

Production Details


Indian Ink


You’re Invited!  

Indians throw crazy parties.  

Heard of Diwali? A million lamps floating on a river and fireworks to wake the dead.  

Heard of Holi? An explosion of colour and joy and massive dry cleaning bills.  

How about Onam? …No?

It’s the harvest festival, and this one could be the craziest of them all!

Mrs Krishnan’s boarder, overzealous wannabe DJ James (Justin Rogers, Maui Me Te Ra, Auckland Theatre Company), has invited a few friends into the back room of the dairy (yes – Krishnan’s Dairy) as a special surprise to celebrate Onam and the return home of her son. But when around 100 strangers turn up (the audience) and settle in, Mrs K has no choice but to throw the party of her life!

First came Jacob Rajan, then Madeleine Sami. Now Kalyani Nagarajan is making considerable noise as one of the most in-demand, exciting South Asian-Kiwi acting talents in New Zealand. Just weeks after graduating from Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School in 2015, iconic director Colin McColl cast her in Auckland Theatre Company’s Polo. She’s since toured Australia in the much-loved kid’s epic The Gruffalo, featured in the Auckland Arts Festival hit Tea, and appeared in the third season of telly’s The Brokenwood Mysteries as a highly-suspicious spider conservation crusader. 2017 marked her first collaboration with Indian Ink, touring the country in the hugely successful revival of The Pickle King.  

Kalyani is delighted to lead the cast as Zina Krishnan, joining forces with former drama school classmate Justin Rogers (The Cherry Orchard). Together, they’ll create total theatrical mayhem, walking the line between death and rebirth in a rapidly unfolding comic, odd-couple drama of a careworn, widowed shopkeeper and a naïve party-mad boarder.

Join us for an evening that’s sure to get you into the Christmas spirit!

FROM THE MAKERS OF KRISHNAN’S DAIRY AND GURU OF CHAI

TAPAC, Western Springs, Auckland
6-14 December 2017
Wed 6 – Sat 9 December 2017, 8.00pm
Mon 11 December 2017, 6.30pm
Tues 12 – Thur 14 December 2017, 8.00pm
Prices:
The Top Table: $58.00: Seated at Mrs K’s Dining Table
The Kitchen Club: $48.00: Seated on bar stools at the kitchen bench
The Cheeky Seats: $40.00: Seated on chairs on the floor
The Wallflowers: $32.00: Raised seating along the wall
The Party Animals: $15.00: Standing on the floor 
BUY TICKETS 

MRS. KRISHNAN’S PARTY NZ Tour 2018:

The rules of theatre will be danced around the floor when audiences become active participants in MRS KRISHNAN’S PARTY. Indian Ink’s joyous, life-affirming take on death, rebirth and the impact of community kicks off a national tour from August 8, charming the pants off audiences in Whangarei, Auckland, Hamilton, New Plymouth, Wellington and Christchurch.

Laughter will abound. Tears will be shed. Tea and secrets will be spilled. Mess will be made. Love will be found. Tables will be danced on and strangers will become friends. It’s a party!

#ricericebaby

WHANGAREI:  August 8-11 at OneOneSix, 7.30pm
Tickets available at https://www.eventfinda.co.nz/

HAMILTON:  August 15-18 at The Meteor, 7.30pm
Tickets available at https://nz.patronbase.com/_TheMeteor/Productions

AUCKLAND:  August 22-September 2 at Q Theatre
Tickets available at http://www.qtheatre.co.nz/, 7.00pm

NEW PLYMOUTH:  September 6-8 at Theatre Royal
Tickets available at http://premier.ticketek.co.nz/, 7.30pm

WELLINGTON:  September 19-29 at Te Auaha
Tickets available at http://premier.ticketek.co.nz/, 7.00pm

CHRISTCHURCH:  October 3-7 at Papa Hou, YMCA
Tickets available at http://premier.ticketek.co.nz/, 7.00pm

2019 Tour

TAUPŌ
July 11-12 at Great Lake Centre Hall
As part of the Taupō Winter Festival
Tickets available via the Taupō Winter Festival
https://www.trybooking.com/nz/book/event?eid=727&

AUCKLAND
August 6-18 at Q Theatre
Tickets available via Q Theatre
http://www.qtheatre.co.nz/ 

TAURANGA
August 23-25 at Baycourt
Tickets available via Ticketek
https://premier.ticketek.co.nz 



Theatre , Solo ,


1hr 30m (no interval)

Astute, contagious, charming, delicious

Review by Vivienne Quinn 24th Aug 2019

Mrs Krishnan’s Party is one of those rare shows – the kind you hope for, or I do, each time I go to the theatre. I eagerly anticipate an experience that will make me believe, just that little bit more, in the simple joy of being human.

There is something I can almost touch in a work like this – a feeling that we are all in this together, we are riding a wave and most importantly, we can totally trust those who are leading us. This is so important in a show that is, ultimately, a party, albeit a well-managed party, embracing music, colour, smell and touch.

This show works so beautifully because of the charisma and skill of the two actors: Justin Rogers, as James, with his upbeat, contagious energy, and the remarkable presence of Kalyani Nagarajan, as Mrs Krishnan, who is a master of relaxed and astute improvisation. We follow their leads naturally and eagerly; this is audience participation at its best, because we don’t feel intimidated, or worried that we will be humiliated. In fact, I’ve never seen such eager participation from an audience – not a Tauranga audience anyway, who are often quite a hard nut to crack.

I feel better knowing New Zealand creates such charming theatre as this. It’s not hard-hitting, and it won’t change your world. It will, however, make your world just that little bit more delicious, even if just for a short while. Thank you Indian Ink, you’ve done it again.

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Festival of renewal happily honoured with depth and levity

Review by John Smythe 20th Sep 2018

The recurring themes in Indian Ink Theatre’s creations include the universal quests for love (Krishnan’s Dairy), happiness (The Candlestickmaker), what is worth preserving (The Pickle King), a life with meaning (The Guru of Chai) and what is worth changing (Kiss the Fish) – not to mention explorations of how fear suppresses love (The Dentist’s Chair), the environmental ‘elephant in the room’ (The Elephant Thief) and the politics of ‘progress’ and painless death (Welcome to the Murder House).

At first blush Mrs Krishnan’s Party seems to have eschewed its founding principle, of “opening mouths with laughter in order to slip something serious in”. It’s all about the party to celebrate Onam, which means “Freedom!!!” according to our host James, who fancies himself as “DJ Jimmy J!” We “get with the vibe” of the decorated room by donning colourful garlands and scarves … The enthusiasm of Justin Rogers’ James is irresistible. Who needs serious?

But it’s a shock for Zina Krishnan, to find us all whooping it up in the back room of her shop. As played by Kalyani Nagarajan her silent horror blended with a natural compulsion to be friendly towards visitors is priceless. But we are a day early for Onam and we have to go. Zina is not to be trifled with.

James believes Mrs K – widowed since her beloved Gobi was shot by an intruder (ref: Krishnan’s Dairy) – has become so stressed out over the ‘how’ of managing her shop alone that she has forgotten the ‘why’. Zina thinks James’s concept of celebration is way too superficial. What evolves from these opposing forces is involving, informative and very entertaining before it inexorably brings the quests for happiness, love and what is worth hanging into or letting go of to the surface.

Meanwhile we are guests and as such we have to be fed – so rice and dhal are prepared … As all that takes its course, Zina treats us to traditional bharatha natyam (dance) and sets about telling us the Mahabali legend that underpins Onam: the harvest festival that brings us from darkness to light.

It has to be said that on opening night at Te Auaha’s Tapere Nui – a large ‘black box’ space, configured in the traverse for this show – the actors had yet to find it ‘pitch’ so quite a lot of verbal detail was lost. Nevertheless the essence of the story comes through as the spicy aroma of what’s cooking permeates our already-stimulated senses.

Cellphones play a role too, not least in connecting with Zina’s son Apu, who is now a successful architect in India. And various truths come to light – about Apu, James, Gobi’s ashes and Zina’s plans for the shop … There’s a hint of love in the air too, for Zina – who is not above a bit of matchmaking between the audience members she and James get to help with the cooking.

Kalyani Nagarajan and Justin Rogers are extremely adept at interacting with the audience and weaving spontaneously-discovered threads through the ensuing action. The banter about the costs of renting in the ‘real’ world is especially revealing and poignant.  

Overall the festival of renewal is happily honoured with depth as well as levity, the dhal and rice is delicious and those who stay to partake of it are imbued with an enlivening sense of community. 

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Definitely a big hit

Review by Lisa Simpson 07th Sep 2018

Being of a curious nature, I have always peered into the back rooms of dairies and shops, trying to catch a glimpse of the lives of the shop owners and their children. Tonight, I am invited through the plastic strips of the ubiquitous fly screen curtain into the mysteries of that world. And what a world it is! 

Set designer John Verryt once again weaves his magic to transform a space into something that is familiar yet much more. The back room of Mrs Krishan’s dairy is a warm, intimate space. There are cartons of groceries in the corners, photos of family, a kitchen bench and dining table. Verryt creates texture, intimacy and a sense of both Indian and Kiwi with varied strips of wallpaper on the walls of the set. The space we are invited into is truly an immersive theatre experience.

We the audience are the guests at a surprise party that James (Justin Rogers) is throwing for his landlady. She is Mrs Krishnan, widow of Gobi Krishnan, whom we met 20 years ago in Indian Ink’s first moving and ground-breaking production Krishnan’s Dairy. James has decorated the back of the dairy to celebrate Onam, a festival from the Indian state of Kerala that celebrates the cyclic nature of life. The set surrounds us so we are enclosed in the room. 

We are divided into sections of the audience space by party personality: wallflowers, the inner circle, party animals or honoured guests. Gimmicky, potentially, but the atmosphere in the theatre is truly lively as we become a cast of many rather than two as we are included in the preparations, the dancing and music and the food. The line between actor and audience is effortlessly and skilfully blurred.

This is no excruciating thing, where a hapless audience member is dragged onto the stage and the rest of the audience shrinks into their seats. The interaction is fluid and spontaneous, as the audience gives advice, reaches out to comfort and parties without Kiwi cringe.

What makes this production hum is the charm and energy of the two actors. Kalyani Nagarajan is masterful as Mrs Krishnan. She captures with complete credibility a woman with bags of personality. Mrs K scolds James and us, worries about her future, mourns her husband, fusses about split rice and broken glass and match-makes the audience, taking us through a variety of emotions with aplomb.  The audience are included within the stage lighting, so it is a delight to watch the audience’s faces around me as they laugh and gasp and in some instances are brought to tears.

Justin Rogers’ well-meaning and slightly inept James welcoms us to the party and brings an engaging vivacity to his role. The pacing of the dialogue between these two is fantastic; they play off each other superbly. Dialogue is fresh and witty resulting in much belly-laughter from the audience.

As always, Jacob Rajan and Justin Lewis – Indian Ink co-founders and writers of this play – open our mouths with laughter to “slip something serious in”. The story of King Mahabali and the origins of the Onam Festival are interspersed with the action and allow us to reflect on Mrs Krishan’s journey and the challenges life brings. The richness and importance of human connection and face to face relationships is highlighted through the very act of celebration, as we are told. We begin the night as strangers and end as friends. 

This production does not include some of the elements we have come to expect from Indian Ink – no masks, no live musician on stage – but for me it is a return to form. I have been able to see six of their eight productions and for me there have been hits and misses. This is definitely a big hit. It is a great night out and you’ll kick yourself if you stay at home in your PJs instead of joining the party.

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Touched by sincerity as we celebrate

Review by Gail Pittaway 16th Aug 2018

Indian Ink’s latest heart-warming production has their usual spice-mix of fabulous comedy, touching backstories, hapless contemporary characters and magic moments of timeless storytelling. With just a hint of boosting around the teeth, authors Justin Lewis and Jacob Rajan still keep to their traditions of masking, so prominent in their earliest production Krishnan’s Dairy and which this story follows after a period of 20 years.

In that first wonderful play, Mr Krishnan was attacked and killed by an intruder in their corner dairy. Now, still alone, Mrs Krishnan has kept the store going for two decades, brought up their son, educated him and sent him off to the world to make good. To fill the gap in her house and as a favour to friends, she has taken in a boarder, James, who is a student, and it appears that, behind her back, he has invited the audience to attend a party – in the back of her shop. It is immediately apparent that this is not going to be a play to sit back from. James engages everyone with passing out scarves, garlands and bindi dots, all setting up to give Mrs Krishnan a surprise when she comes into the back room after a day in her shop.

The occasion is Onam, a South Indian harvest festival celebrating the return of Mahabali, from the underworld. In Hindu legend, Mahabali was a wealthy and arrogant landowner and lord who was tricked by the gods, though Vishnu, into losing his land and his life, in one of those three wishes scenarios of which myths are populated.  But the gods granted him one visit back to his people each year and so this feast celebrates this return.

The story is retold through several sections of the play, by James, and then Mrs Krishnan, who, in the retelling warms up to the thought of over 100 strangers in her shop, and begins to make us all dahl, a lentil curry. As she cooks and bosses everyone into assisting her, opening tomato cans, finding onions and dahl lentils, rice and spices, the story behind this vegetarian feast resumes, this time with dance and with the aid of kitchen implements, spatula and spoon taking the parts of gods and men.

The cast are both extremely talented actors. Kalyani Nagarajan is an irresistible Mrs K, and her gift of remembering names of strangers and then insinuating them into the dialogue is extraordinary. This is a two-hander play for 102 people. Her voice and fluidity with gesture and Indian classical dance are also well employed in creating layers to this passionate and principled character.

Justin Rogers’ James is also nuanced with moments of self-doubt, despite his desire to come across as a party boy, whipping up our reserved Kiwi crowd into something resembling a rave. His timing is also perfect for drawing in the audience to work with him on secrets in the plot and assisting with the cooking. We are then implicated in his ultimate gaffe, a twist to the plot all the stronger for our involvement. This is risky work, and the actors bring it off superbly.

But Indian Ink are also experts in stagecraft and here the set design, so artfully shabby and deliberately incidental is no exception. Lighting surprises also delight and the use of sound, music and cell phone technology is well-managed as is the sheer brilliance of timing in cooking a vast amount of curry and rice in front of our eyes, drawing all into the party spirit under the shadow of a god’s death. For all the fun and energy, as we are encouraged to celebrate, we are also touched by the sincerity of these good souls.

Namaste, Indian Ink, “I bow to the divine in you.”

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Sophistication, subtlety and profundity amid colour, light and fun

Review by Stuart Devenie 09th Aug 2018

Whangarei’s newly painted OneOneSix theatre venue, resplendent in her new livery of black, yellow and purple, seems, we discover, to have been decorated especially for Mrs Krishnan’s Party. The audience is queuing, either for exceptional coffee from the resident barista, Ant, or to move into the late Mr Krishnan’s dairy for delicious shots of Kombucha (provided by the venue).

Our tickets have already determined our social status prior to the presentation and I feel some slight surprise that I am not at the ‘Top Table’ but relegated to the position of ‘Wallflower’. Not a role I would have cast myself in.

We are greeted by James, as resplendent as the building in his costume as an Indian demi-God, for the celebration of the South Indian Festival of Onam. We come to realise that his self-elevation to this exalted position is an inflection of his quixotic delusion about the truth of his life. But because of his youth and engaging impudence as the host of the ‘surprise’ party for his aunt, Mrs Krishnan, we forgive him. It is also an opportunity for the young man to show off his extensive repertoire of dance moves.

His aunt, the hard-working widow of Mr Krishnan, who supports her nephew, is less forgiving. For her, the discovery of 100 complete strangers lounging around the back room of her dairy is less a surprise than a shock. 

Over the course of less than 90 minutes, we come to know and love these characters as they come to know and love us. Mrs Krishnan, now accepting the inevitability of our presence and driven by deep cultural imperatives of hospitality, begins preparing a meal for all 100 of her unexpected guests, some of whom are pressed into service as her soux-chefs, while she is called away to serve in the shop. 

The plot is as delicious as the smells which begin to pervade the space as Mrs Krishnan’s curry is cooking in front of us. 

The writers, Justin Lewis and Jacob Rajan, have, together with dramaturge Murray Edmond, crafted a script of simplicity, sophistication, subtlety and profundity all wrapped up in a surface of colour, light and fun.

John Verryt’s simple set is accurate, evocative and nostalgic, complemented by Jane Hakaraia’s skilful lighting design. The sound design by Liam Kelly, clever and witty, ranges from Bollywood to disco and Fiona Nichols’ costumes are perfectly pitched. Mention must also be made of Aaron Paaps’ deft control of the technicals.

Finally, the actors. Kalyani Nagarajah and Justin Rogers fulfil the demands of the script and more. They are courageous, truthful and completely committed to their roles in guiding and supporting the audience through the story. 

Indian Ink has crafted a presentation which could only be done here, in this country. It reminds us to remember where we came from as individuals, where we are as a community and, as the entire audience rises to its feet at the conclusion of the play, where we might be. 

If this production is coming to your community, I would urge you to book now. The rice and dhal are delicious! 

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Hilarious, touching and rewarding

Review by Nik Smythe 07th Dec 2017

Jacob Rajan and Justin Lewis have been creating outstanding works of rich, original theatre with an eclectic cornucopia of collaborative artists for twenty years now. Each work is imbued with unmistakably Indian flavour, at the same time accessible to anyone who cares to engage; exploring and celebrating traditional culture even while gleefully creating something unique in its own right.

Mrs Krishnan’s Party continues this established tradition of fresh innovation, beginning with its being a sequel to the first Indian Ink production Krishnan’s Dairy, a mask-based comic tragedy, devised in an entirely different style and setting, with the theatre transformed into the surprisingly spacious back room and kitchen area of the old shop.

Mrs Krishnan’s young varsity student lodger James (Justin Rogers) – cosplayed up as King Maveli, the protagonist in the legend central to the auspicious Hindu festival of Onam – shows us to our seats as we enter. The auditorium is divided into five sections, respectively the Top Table, Kitchen Club, Cheeky Seats, Party Animals and Wallflowers, providing punters with unreliable clues about what kind of action they may be recruited to participate in. 

Rogers’ ‘DJ Jimmy’ James is young, bright-eyed, compassionate and eager to show his friend and landlady the greatest Onam celebration she’s seen since Mr Krishnan died suddenly at the hands of an armed burglar twenty three years ago. The place is festooned with hanging floral decorations and those of us who ‘missed the email about coming in costume’ are provided with colourful garlands, scarves and bindis as we prepare to surprise the titular Mrs Krishnan upon her entrance. 

Kalyani Nagarajan delightfully conveys a wholly classic personification of Zina Krishnan (originally portrayed by Rajan in mask in Krishnan’s Dairy). At something of a crossroads in her life, she dreams of selling up and returning to India, yet contrarily cannot conceive of leaving the place so rich with memories of her beloved husband Gobi. She normally has a quietly reflective Onam with her son Apu but now, thanks to James, she suddenly has a couple of hundred guests to entertain. 

The original script, by Rajan and Lewis assisted by dramaturge Murray Edmond, leaves plentiful space for improvisation and interaction with the crowd, as facilitated by Lewis’s erudite direction. The immersive element is comparable to September’s Aunty, on a larger scale with more heartfelt, less satirical, overtones.

At various times – in between the comical discussions and moments of drama, as well as intermittent narration of the aforementioned legend of King Maveli – certain audience members are called upon to answer phones, help in the kitchen and/or proffer white lies to protect sensitive feelings, ultimately creating a fully integrated spontaneous community which will inevitably take on a different overall character with each performance.

While it is typically well-conceived and functional, a little suspension of disbelief is required, and easily provided, to accept John Verryt’s somewhat expansive set that includes all of us as the rear space of a corner dairy. In conjunction with Jane Hakaraia’s perfectly perfunctory lighting, Fiona Nichols’s appositely appealing costumes and Liam Kelly’s party-centric sound design, the entire experience is hilarious, touching and altogether most rewarding. 

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