PARADISE or The Impermanence of Ice Cream

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

20/05/2021 - 05/06/2021

TAPAC Theatre, Western Springs, Auckland

23/10/2020 - 01/11/2020

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

20/05/2021 - 05/06/2021

Production Details

Indian Ink

Take a wild ride to paradise with Indian Ink’s brand new play.  Master storyteller Jacob Rajan weaves 1980s Mumbai nightclubs, mad dogs and ice cream into the mystery of India’s vanishing vultures. Prepare for laughter, exquisite puppetry and a dash of Indian disco – this show will blow your mind and melt your heart. Based on an incredible true story.

The skies over Mumbai once teemed with vultures but now they have disappeared.  A country boy arrives in India’s most exciting city and befriends a young woman from the enigmatic Parsi community – a people whose faith is entwined with the vulture.  As the new friends are drawn deeper into the puzzle of the missing birds, the kulfi shop which sits at the heart of their world becomes an unlikely battleground, changing their lives forever. 

Like kulfi (ice cream’s Indian ancestor), this show is richly layered and impossible to resist.

Indian Ink has brought together the award-winning team behind their hits Krishnan’s Dairy and Guru of Chai and is delighted to introduce you to puppet maestro Jon Coddington.

We’re lucky to be in one of the few places in the world where live performance is still possible and we can’t wait to share this premier season with you.

TAPAC, Western Springs, Auckland
Friday, 23 Oct 2020 – Sunday, 1 Nov 2020
80 mins (no interval) 
23, 24, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31  October – 7:00pm
Sunday 1 November – 4:00pm
This show is recommended for ages 11+.

Accessible Seating
To book a seat that is accessible for wheelchairs, please call TAPAC’s reception on 845 0295 or email Patrons in wheelchairs are entitled to one free companion ticket.  


Take a wild ride to paradise with indian ink’s dazzling new one-man show, playing somewhere near you!

Indian Ink is delighted to announce an 11 centre national tour of their new work Paradise or the Impermanence of Ice Cream. With the company’s immediate international travel plans on hold, kiwis all over the Aotearoa can enjoy their latest production, in this, their most ambitious national tour ever playing in Wellington, Auckland, Tauranga, Hamilton, New Plymouth, Upper Hutt, Kapiti, Nelson, Ōamaru, Dunedin and Christchurch from 20 May – 2 September. This large-scale NZ tour precedes a confirmed North American tour in 2022.

Our lives are but melting ice cream and the transition between this world and the next is never easy, but it’s made profoundly more difficult when your guide is a vulture. A man trying desperately to avoid death is flung between limbo and his past where a rebellious young woman from Mumbai’s enigmatic Parsi community – a people whose faith is entwined with the vulture – holds the key that may deliver him to paradise.

Selling out its 2-week preview season in 2020, Paradise showcases the incredible talents of one of New Zealand’s most treasured actors – Jacob Rajan (MNZM) as he delivers a dazzling solo performance channelling seven characters, while weaving the afterlife and a dash of Bollywood disco into the real-life mystery of India’s vanishing vultures. True to the beloved Indian Ink style, Paradise is rife with mischief, intelligence, exquisite puppetry, inspired sound design and comic originality. 

“Thoroughly engaging, beyond anything I’ve ever seen” – Theatrescenes

Inspired by Ernest Becker’s Pulitzer prize-winning Denial of Death, and the vibrant, life–filled chaos of India’s most cosmopolitan city, Indian Ink had the idea for this script after a trip to Mumbai in 2019. “Justin and I and got inspired by the city, its people and its secrets. In particular, the mystery of India’s vanishing vultures. The fastest mass extinction of all time and we’d never heard about it. It pricked our curiosity and the more we delved into it, the more wonderfully strange it got. We originally started writing about Mumbai, vultures, and immortality but discovered we were actually writing about impermanence. It’s a word that resonates with the strange times we’re living in”, says Indian Ink co-founder, Jacob Rajan.

“Some of the best theatre in the World” – NZ Herald

Indian Ink has been lighting up the boards at home and abroad for over two decades and the company is one of our most successful theatrical exports. This new work has been created by the team behind many of their past hit shows – including Krishnan’s Dairy and Guru of Chai. It was in fact Krishnan’s Dairy that first put them on the map and this return to the one-man show format with Rajan at the helm, will be incredibly satisfying for Indian Ink audiences – both new and old.

“We’re lucky to be in one of the few places in the world where live performance is still possible and we can’t wait to share this premiere season with you before we take it to the world” – Indian Ink co-founder, Justin Lewis.

For more information visit:

Paradise or the Impermanence of Ice Cream plays
Te Auaha Theatre. 20 May – 5 June.
Tue & Wed, 6.30pm. Thur – Sat, 7.30pm. Sun, 4.00pm.
Book at

Q Theatre. 9 – 26 June.
Tue & Wed, 6.30pm. Thur – Sat, 7.30pm. Sun, 4.00pm.
Book at

Baycourt Theatre. 2 – 3 July, 7pm & 4 July, 4.00pm.
Book at

Meteor Theatre. 7 – 10 July, 7.00pm & 11 July, 4.00pm
Book at

TSB Showplace, 29 – 30 July, 7.30pm
Book at

Expressions, 4 – 7 August, 7.00pm
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Te Raukura, 12 – 14 August, 7.00pm
Book at

Theatre Royal, 19 – 21 August, 7.00pm
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Opera House, 25 August, 7.00pm
Tickets on sale soon

Regent Theatre, 27 August, 7.00pm
Book at

Isaac Theatre Royal, 31 August – 1 September, 7.00pm
Book at

Creative Team
Writers – Jacob Rajan and Justin Lewis
Director – Justin Lewis
Actor – Jacob Rajan
Puppet Designer, Maker & Puppeteer – Jon Coddington
Composer, Sound designer & Operator – David Ward
Set Designer – John Verryt
Lighting Designer & Operator, Tour & Stage Manager - Andrew Potvin
Costume Designer – Elizabeth Whiting
Projected imagery, Photographer, Editor – Bala Murali Shingade
Dramaturge – Murray Edmond

Theatre , Solo ,

1 hr 45 mins incl. interval

Secrets, science and vultures come home to roost

Review by John Smythe 21st May 2021

Death has haunted many an Indian Ink play but never more so than in Paradise or The Impermanence of Ice Cream. Kutisar is in limbo, confronting events of 30 years ago, when he was 23, that may or may not release his spirit to Paradise … (shades of the early English drama Everyman but much more entertaining).

Is this the same buck-toothed Kutisar that Jacob Rajan created in The Guru of Chai (which premiered in 2010) or is it his same character in a different scenario, as per commedia dell’arte conventions? Both had chai carts. This Kutisar has met his end in Wellington NZ, while working for Harvey Norman, but is recalling his early days as a chai wallah in Mumbai who deviated into kulfi (ice-cream) for a while. It could well be that after that time he moved south to Bangalore before emigrating to New Zealand.

John Verryt’s simple set features a stepped trapezoid plinth upon which Kutisar lands with a thump to open the play. It is in the centre of a trapezium that turns out to confine him, although the Vulture which is central to this story – and wonderfully animated by puppeteer Jon Coddington – is able to enter and leave it at will, albeit in the memories and imagination of Kutisar. An upstage wall carries evocative projected imagery created by Verryt and edited by Bala Murali Shingade. A wildly varied and exacting sound design by composer David Ward synchronises with Andrew Potvin’s sometimes spectacular lighting design to great dramatic effect.

Within this splendid consortium of design, Jacob Rajan – with his trade-mark character ‘mask’ (the teeth) – and clad in a wondrous red-and-black velvet shirt and stripy trousers (costume designer Elizabeth Whiting) – brings us another range of idiosyncratic characters, more subtly differentiated than in the past. We have to concentrate to keep track of the transitions. But the story they are cast in is another masterful creation by Rajan and Justin Lewis, who also directs the play.

It is the pecking Vulture who wakes the unconscious Kutisar. Later we will learn that the souls of the dead remain on Earth for three days, guarded by an angel, and that, despite the negative reputation they have in western thinking, vultures have a crucial cleansing role in picking clean the bones of the finally dead.

The abiding guilt Kutisar must now address involves his relationship with a young Parsi* woman, Meera, who manages a kulfi shop for her controlling uncle, Farook. They meet outside a disco bar where a Bouncer won’t let him in because he’s not a woman. Meera sneaks Kutisar in, they dance, he’s evicted – and she takes him on her motor scooter to the Towers of Silence where many Parsi corpses, including her Baba (grandfather), lie untouched by vultures who are nowhere to be seen.

These scenes and all that follow become vivid in our imaginations thanks to all the creative skills employed. The action cuts back and forth between Mumbai circa 1990 and limbo, where Kutisar keeps hearing his own ‘not available’ message on the answerphone. The time-leaps are also swift and again, we do have to concentrate.

As Meera pursues the mystery of the vanished vultures, abetted by Kutisar, we discover she has a passion for science but never won the international university scholarships her sisters did. We meet her apparently eccentric upper-crust Aunty, who has something caged in a rooftop room (and who, I am told later, is Dr Rao, but I miss that connection during the show) and astute Dr Prakash who recognises Meera’s aptitude for science and wants her to go to a conference in Pakistan – which will cost money, of course …

There is also an eerily calm gentleman to whom Kutisar is in debt, being behind in his payments for his currently unused chai cart. This may or may not be the Money Lender – I confess to being confused on that point. A crucial turning point in the plot, involving the money issues besetting Kutisar and Meera, leaves me puzzled (and no-one I ask about this after the show is able to clarify it).

Nevertheless, life-changing secrets, rigorous science and hopefully the vultures come home to roost in a dramatic climax and poignant denouement that garners resounding applause from a highly appreciative audience. Once more Indian Ink have captured enduring truths about nature, including the human sort, in a riveting play with the extraordinary Jacob Rajan at its heart.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
*Parsis came from Persia (now Iran), escaping the Muslim conquest in the 7th century CE.  In his programme note, Jacob writes: “Parsis have made an enormous contribution to India and the world. In politics, industry, medicine, finance, science, music , art and theatre this ethnic group has been extraordinarily influential out of all proportion to their number.” He adds: “The eclectic bunch of Parsis portrayed in this play are entirely fictional and I hope cause no offense to a people I hold in extremely high regard.”

Fun fact: Wiki includes Freddie Mercury, lead singer of Queen, in its list of prominent Parsis. And Freddie is hero-worshipped by a character in Indian Ink’s Kiss the Fish


Editor May 21st, 2021

This Theatrical Life: Jacob Rajan 

ARTicle magazine, 21 MAY 2021 

Beloved playwright and actor Jacob Rajan kicked off a nationwide tour of his new show Paradise or the Impermanence of Ice Cream in Wellington last night. In between playing seven different characters in a production the NZ Herald called "charming, engaging, often profound and beautifully crafted piece of theatre", Jacob took our inaugural This Theatrical Life questionnaire. [More

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Enjoy a Scoop of Life

Review by Jess Macdonald 08th Nov 2020

As audience members pack the rows of the TAPAC theatre, I take my seat beside a group of strangers for the first time in months. There’s an edginess to the atmosphere – a flurry of discussions around the recent Covid cases in managed isolation – and I flinch as the woman next to me coughs into her arm.

This is theatre in late 2020. I brace myself.

Then, we are plummeted into darkness: a richly savoured moment as I sink into the throng of electricity, unique to the anticipation of live performance. It’s a feeling I, like many others, have sorely missed. [More


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Glorious, skilful, important, captivating and impermanent

Review by Leigh Sykes 24th Oct 2020

The show’s programme reminds us that “we’re lucky to be in one of the few places in the world where live performance is still possible” and I certainly feel lucky to be seeing this show. It is described as a development season, and I am very much looking forward to seeing what happens next with this charming, engaging, often profound and beautifully crafted piece of theatre.

The show begins with a lone figure, played by Jacob Rajan, who appears to have landed in the space from somewhere else. I enjoy the way that he takes his time to get up and start to explore the space, and there are some lovely moments as he eventually notices and engages with the audience. We hear an answer phone message that introduces this character as Kutisar, and he tells us he works at Harvey Norman. By the end of the show, I realise that this is the first of many details that are woven skilfully throughout the piece, in order to payoff later, thus showing how much thought and detail has gone into the crafting of the play.

Kutisar attempts to find a way out of the space only to find an inferno through the first door he tries. He approaches another, much more attractive-sounding door, only to have it slammed in his face. This sequence showcases the skilfully rendered sound effects and music (designed, composed and performed live by David Ward) that support and ground the action. With only one actor on stage for most of the show, these sound effects enlarge and enhance the world of the play, surrounding the audience and bringing them into this varied and vibrant world.

As we begin to make some guesses about where Kutisar may be, a second character, a vulture – a gorgeously rendered puppet, created and operated by Jon Coddington – appears. This piques our interest, and the interaction between Kutisar and the bird prompts Kutisar to take us to the beginning of his story. 

Now Rajan shows his physical skill, as we head back to the ’80s to see Kutisar enjoying himself in a nightclub in Mumbai, before meeting the self-possessed and confident Meera. This meeting is the catalyst for the rest of the story, and it is a joy to see Rajan’s facility in moving physically and vocally between the characters. He doesn’t miss a beat switching between Kutisar and Meera as they leave the nightclub, and end up in the wealthiest area in Mumbai, at the Tower of Silence.

This is where Parsi families give their loved ones a ‘sky burial’, leaving them to be consumed by vultures. Meera is distraught to find there are no vultures and so bodies are not being consumed. She is determined to investigate why the vultures are disappearing and this takes her and Kutisar on a journey full of twists, turns and learning to uncover the truth.

As the journey begins, Meera is still running her late grandfather’s kulfi (ice cream’s Indian ancestor) shop, although she has always yearned to be a scientist. Kutisar is overawed by the fact that she has such a well-known business, and muses that kulfi’s impermanence is both its beauty and its value: once it’s gone we can never experience the exact same flavour again, but we can try by buying more. The view that things are made more beautiful by their ephemeral nature resonates throughout the play and is also true of every piece of theatre. The search to find those things that are seemingly impermanent is at the heart of theatre-making as well as the journey that Kutisar and Meera undertake. 

Lighting (designed by Andrew Potvin) and set (designed by John Verryt) combine with the sound throughout this journey to create a whole range of beautifully realised places and moods. The set is a versatile space that uses rear projection to create an array of vistas and places, allowing the action to move quickly and seamlessly through different locations and times.

Rajan also works seamlessly to introduce more characters as the story unfolds: members of Meera’s family, Dr Prakash (a scientist from the local museum) and, forebodingly, a chillingly calm debt-collector chasing Kutisar for outstanding finance on his chai cart. Through it all, Rajan creates these memorable characters with great economy of voice and physicality, exemplified by a wonderful quick-fire sequence where he switches between four arguing characters at great speed. 

Many themes resonate through the play as the traditional and the modern clash, and we see the constraints and expectations that Meera and Kutisar are subjected to. Despite their best efforts, both are denied opportunities by their circumstances, leaving us to wonder how many of these constraints have still not been removed.

The story unfolds, weaving many seemingly disparate strands together and educating us about the vultures as Kutisar and Meera unravel the mystery of their disappearance. In his programme note, Jacob Rajan explains that as a playwright, he is “led by … curiosity. I’m curious about things I don’t know about and then I research them and write about them as if I do.” This great curiosity and depth of research is utterly apparent throughout the show, as I learn so much about a culture and an animal with which I am very unfamiliar. I’m saddened to find that the plight of India’s vultures is a real one, and that they truly have suffered what Dr. Prakash tells Meera is the “fastest extinction of all time.”

I enjoy the learning as much as I enjoy the characters and the story that leads to an unexpected and powerful ending. I enjoy the creators’ instinct to create humour alongside sombre moments, and I arrive at the end of the show marvelling at the level of craftsmanship that has gone into this creation.

This is a glorious show, full of wonderfully crafted writing, skilful performance and important ideas. The way small details are introduced and then woven through the play to pay off at precisely the right moment is masterful. This is gorgeous (and enormously educational) storytelling by a group of creatives who certainly know how to engage and entertain an audience.

At the time of writing, the whole season at TAPAC appears to be sold out, which is a testament to the Indian Ink’s reputation for quality shows. For me, this is a wonderful introduction to the world of Indian Ink; I am totally captivated and keen to see more of this work. We are fortunate to be able to experience live theatre at the moment and this is a show that I would happily encourage as many people as possible to experience. 


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