Municipal Theatre, Napier

04/05/2017 - 05/05/2017

Gisborne War Memorial Theatre, Gisborne

10/05/2017 - 12/05/2017

Forum North, Whangarei

19/05/2017 - 20/05/2017

Playhouse, Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts, Hamilton

24/05/2017 - 28/05/2017

Baycourt - Addison Theatre, Tauranga

01/06/2017 - 03/06/2017

Isaac Theatre Royal, Christchurch

15/06/2017 - 17/06/2017

Fortune Theatre, Dunedin

21/06/2017 - 24/06/2017

Q Theatre, 305 Queen St, Auckland

02/08/2017 - 19/08/2017

Hannah Playhouse, Cnr Courtenay Place & Cambridge Terrace, Wellington

24/08/2017 - 09/09/2017

Production Details


Indian Ink Theatre Company has chosen to share the highly acclaimed The Pickle King with audiences across New Zealand, in this, their 20th anniversary year. From 4 May – 9 September, ten centres throughout Aotearoa will experience the artistry and magic of an Indian Ink show as the relationships at the Empire Hotel are brought to life on stage. Touring to Napier, Gisborne, Whangarei, Hamilton, Tauranga, Christchurch, Dunedin, Nelson, Auckland and Wellington, this will be Indian Ink’s largest tour yet!

Once the finest hotel in town, the Empire is now as faded as the dreams of the piano player who haunts the lobby. Ammachy runs the Empire with an iron fist and has one big problem; her niece is blind and she will not be married. Sasha knows she must not marry because she is cursed – everything she loves dies. Jojo is a heart surgeon. However, as a recent arrival from India the only work she can find is as a night porter in the Empire. 

Delving into love, death and what is worth preserving, The Pickle King, has been updated to reflect modern times with star of The Elephant Thief, Vanessa Kumar (Boys Will Be Boys, Peter Pan), stepping into the role of Jojo, and bright new talent Kalyani Nagarajan (The Brokenwood Mysteries 3, Polo) as Sasha. Both women will play multiple characters alongside Andrew Ford (Le Sud, The Lady Killers) as George. Multi-talented pianist Ayrton Foote, supports the action on stage.

First performed in 2002, The Pickle King enchanted audiences and reviewers alike with this sublime and ridiculous, simple yet profound tale. The show received a record seven nominations in New Zealand’s theatre awards, and won the highly contested supreme award, ‘Production of the Year’. In 2003, Indian Ink took The Pickle King to the Edinburgh Fringe, winning the ‘Fringe First Award’, and in 2007, it played another successful two-week season at DBS Arts Centre, Singapore. Published alongside Krishnan’s Dairy and The Candlestickmaker, this trilogy is now taught as part of the NZ Secondary Schools Drama curriculum and at Universities.

Three of the original production team, Justin Lewis, Director, John Verryt, Set and Costume Designer, and Jo Kilgour, Lighting Designer, will be collaborating alongside the Music Director, Ben Wilcock, to create a vibrant theatrical experience.

It tells a story that interweaves real biographies and events to generate the most elaborate and brilliant fiction.” – The Scotsman, Glasgow

A piece of total theatre which offers humanity and psychological insight.” – The Dominion Post, Wellington

Indian Ink has chosen this play to commemorate two decades of the finest New Zealand Theatre. See below for a timeline of the Company’s milestones and successes over the last 20 years!

4 May – 9 September 2017

NAPIER, Municipal Theatre
Thursday 4 May & Friday 5 May

GISBORNE, War Memorial Theatre
Wednesday 10 May – Friday 12 May

WHANGAREI, Forum North
Friday 19 May & Saturday 20 May

HAMILTON, Playhouse Theatre
Wednesday 24 May – Sunday 28 May

TAURANGA, Baycourt Theatre
Thursday 1 June – Saturday 3 June

CHRISTCHURCH, Isaac Theatre Royal
Thursday 15 June – Saturday 17 June

DUNEDIN, Fortune Theatre
Wednesday 21 June – Saturday 24 June

NELSON, Theatre Royal
Wednesday 28 June – Friday 30 June

Wednesday 2 August – Saturday 19 August

WELLINGTON, Hannah Playhouse
Thursday 24 August – Saturday 9 September 2017                           #whatsworthpreserving

Theatre , Mask ,

A bright beacon of excellence

Review by John Smythe 25th Aug 2017

When I reviewed the premiere in August 2002 (for the National Business Review), I wrote: “… with The Pickle King the Indian Ink Theatre Company has served up another pungent, taste-mingling sensation that is well worth bottling.” The same applies to this revival with a fresh new cast. I also enjoy afresh the enriching wordplay in the tripping yet potent text, written by Jacob Rajan and Justin Lewis (who also directs).

John Verryt’s set for The Empire Hotel, “Your taste of the Orient in Oriental Bay,” replete with a grand piano that doubles as a reception desk, is similarly rich in hidden treasures. Was there more of a sense of faded grandeur 15 years ago, and was the lighting more moody and atmospheric, especially in the stormy rooftop scenes, than Jo Kilgour’s bright wash offers? Or is it that my memory is steeped in an enhancing brine?

The plot premise: Indian hotelier and widow Ammachy (Vanessa Kumar) is trying to marry off her niece, Sasha (Kalyani Nagarajan), who is going blind as the result of a multinational chemical factory accident involving her school, some 21 years ago. But Shasha believes she is cursed because everything she loves dies. This does not bode well for the lovelorn night porter Jeena (Kumar), who is living in a broom cupboard and studying to sit the necessary exams to gain recognition in New Zealand as a cardio-thoracic surgeon.

Matters of the heart are both emblematic and literal, romantic and life-threatening – not least when a mysterious world-weary traveller checks in as ‘G Reaper’ (Andrew Ford). As the titular ‘Pickle King’, it is George who poses the play’s central question: what is worth preserving?   

The key difference in this iteration is that the Jojo-Sasha romance is now a same-sex one, between Jeena and Sasha, and despite being steeped in the ‘old ways’ concerning marriage, Ammachy accepts it with surprising equanimity. Fair enough; it’s one more surprise among many.  

It’s hard to credit that Vanessa Kumar inhabits the wholly diverse personae of Jeena and Ammachy. Of course the nose-mask, sleek black hair and porter costume of Jeena is hugely contrasted with the craggy half-mask, sari-wrapped grey hair and bouncy bulk of Ammachy. But everything about the differences in physicality, voice and energy – all dedicated to conveying emotional truth – points to a highly skilled actor at work.

Likewise Kalyani Nagarajan, also with just a nose mask, honours commedia and clowning conventions with alacrity as she draws us into Sascha’s inner conflict. Not only does she have to reject the one she loves for fear of causing her death; she also has to betray her with another, for the same reason. Nagarajan’s wholehearted commitment, moment by moment, to a full range of emotions, keeps us on our toes as much as it does Jeena, George and Ammachy. And her proficiency in Bharatha Natyam (Indian classical dance) leaves little wonder that George is entranced by it.

Andrew Ford confronts the interesting challenge of playing a fundamentally dishonest character with truth and he carries it off splendidly. His oscillations between practised charm and gut-level feelings, airy confidence and vulnerability, add to the dramatic impact of all the well-wrought action.

All three actors also share the unutterable magic of silent mask work by bringing Basel masks* to life, to personify Raoul the chef, Father Matthews (both Andrew Ford) and three hotel guests: Henry (Vanessa Kumar), Henrietta (Kalyani Nagarajan) and Quince (Ford). Large and white with vestigial facial features only (they are also known as larval masks), they capture, through ‘less-is-more’ understatement, the essence of isolation, bemusement and yearning. 

Speaking of bemusement, the play is bookended with one guest’s fascination with a globe of the world – and I’m still trying to interpret what happens with it. Some combination of ‘global village’, ‘universal truths’ and ‘the truth will set you free’ perhaps? (Other suggestion welcome.)

Throughout the play a dapper Ayrton Foote, in the role of Graham, plays the piano – and sings a couple of times. Unfortunately strong key-strokes mask his soft (though mic’d) voice so the import of the words are lost. Nevertheless the gentle musical interludes are a pleasing addition to the mix.

With The Pickle King’s revival and tour, Indian Ink, a bright beacon of excellence in our local theatre landscape, is celebrating its 20th year and judging by the What’s Next? list in their programme, they won’t be fading anytime soon. Every generation needs to experience their work.
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*According to “Basel masks are based on the designs of Jacques Lecoq who founded a famous school of mime in the town of Basel on the border of France, Switzerland and Germany in the middle of the 1900s.”


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Well Preserved

Review by Nathan Joe 07th Aug 2017

It’s a testament to the quality of Indian Ink’s storytelling that The Pickle King, the company’s 15-year old play, has stood the test of time. Those like myself who were unable to see its original production are given the opportunity to see a play that made one of New Zealand’s leading theatre companies who they are today. If their first two works, Krishnan’s Dairy and The Candlestickmaker, were perfect star vehicles for Jacob Rajan as a performer, then The Pickle King was the turning point that proved they could create ensemble-driven works of bigger scale and scope. Though not completely unchanged, the additions that Rajan and director Justin Lewis have made for this revival, appropriately, keep it fresh and relevant. They aren’t intrusive updates, though they are notably contemporary ones that most audiences will enjoy. [More]  


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Well preserved with real bite

Review by Dionne Christian 07th Aug 2017

Fifteen years after its debut and minus stalwart performer Jacob Rajan, Indian Ink’s The Pickle King has lost none of its potency or poignancy.  

The show opens with a pianist walking on to the jewel-coloured set, settling down to play the type of lilting and mildly-reassuring music heard in hotel lobbies around the world. Characters wearing “basel masks” (silent white ones) draw us gently into the otherworldly world of The Empire Hotel before we’re introduced to the main protagonists and the play really crackles into life. [More


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Affairs of the heart: a heart-warming treat

Review by Kathleen Mantel 03rd Aug 2017

The Pickle King first took to the stage 15 years ago and was adored by audiences both in New Zealand and at the Edinburgh Festival.  This year, after a bit of a rewrite by Indian Ink founders Jacob Rajan and Justin Lewis, The Pickle King is back. 

Indian Ink’s mix of mask, music, humour and NZ/Indian culture has developed the company into one of the most successful contemporary theatre companies in New Zealand.  The company has a repertoire of shows that have toured the world.  The performances are hilarious, tragic and utterly heart-warming.

The Pickle King’s opening scene is beautiful.  Nothing is said, but so much is said.  The masks and the music tell the story.  It is perfectly choreographed and timed, melancholic, funny, thoughtful.  One of the most charming scenes I have seen on stage. 

Sasha (Kalyani Nagarajan) runs the Empire hotel on Wellington’s windy Oriental Parade.  She’s pretty much blind and is assisted by Jeena (Vanessa Kumar), the hotel porter, formally a cardiothoracic surgeon in India.  Sasha’s aunty Ammachy is desperate to arrange a marriage for her but despite offering up numerous applicants, none are accepted.  In walks in The Pickle King, AKA Mr G Reaper (Andrew Ford), to stir up the pickle pot.  The story at first seems simple, but there are folds of story, and many unexpected and delightful surprises.

The partially-masked actors perform multiple roles and manage to capture the essence of a character and a situation by relying heavily on their eyes, voices and body language.  The masks encourage the audience to look beyond, right into the person who is hiding all sorts of secrets. 

One of the signature traits of an Indian Ink show is music.  In this production lounge-suited Graeme is ever-present on the grand piano which itself is ingeniously incorporated into the set.  Graeme doesn’t talk, but his music is very much a part of the conversation. 

The Pickle King is all about the heart.  I feet that somewhere in that 15 years absence the production has lost a little bit of that heart.  There were a few places where the timing seems a bit off, the silence a bit long, the air too thick.  I’m not right in there the whole way.  Maybe some of the themes that may have been surprising 15 years ago are not as surprising now.  But nevertheless, the production is a heart-warming treat, and the sold-out audience definitely thinks so too with a standing ovation. 


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Rich commentary underlies storyline

Review by Barbara Frame 26th Jun 2017

Everyone loves Indian Ink, the visionary theatre company established 20 years ago by Jacob Rajan and Justin Lewis. The Pickle King, in Dunedin for a season that ends tomorrow, is its most awarded play.

On Oriental Parade, the once-glamorous Empire Hotel creaks along. Porter Jeena, a cardiothoracic surgeon deceived by Immigration New Zealand’s promises, sleeps in a cleaning closet. Receptionist Sasha, traumatised by her early life, fears and distrusts any prospect of intimacy. [More


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Achieves a delicate and satisfying balance of flavours

Review by Erin Harrington 16th Jun 2017

Jacob Rajan and Justin Lewis’s much-celebrated, endearing love story The Pickle King first debuted fifteen years ago, and in that time it’s become a classic of contemporary New Zealand theatre.  

The Pickle King feels like a modern day fairy tale, but like any good fable it is stitched through with serious, even tragic threads of frustration. Here, we have the lifelong impact of childhood and family trauma, the social and cultural difficulties facing immigrants, the pressure of family and cultural expectations, and the impacts of colonialism and inequality.

Set in the faded Empire Hotel – marketed as a taste of the Orient on Wellington’s Oriental Parade – it offers the story of a nearly blind hotel receptionist, Sasha, who is convinced she is cursed and will only bring death to those she loves. Her formidable aunt, Ammachy, the hotel’s proprietor, wants Sasha to marry but has been thwarted at every turn.

Sanguine night porter and recent immigrant Jeena is a third generation cardiothoracic surgeon. She is living, secretly and with remarkable positivity, in the cleaners’ broom cupboard as she prepares to sit the exam that will allow her to practice in New Zealand.

The gentle rhythm of the hotel is disrupted by the arrival of dodgy, pickle-pushing grifter George Reaper – a restless traveller, chronic insomniac, and child of the British Raj with a nasty secret. He stinks of death and becomes obsessed with Sasha.

Kalyani Nagarajan exhibits impressive range and control in her portrayal of the complex, feisty and emotionally vulnerable receptionist Sasha. Vanessa Kumar brings a gentle, genial touch to night porter Jeena, but I am utterly in love with her deft and nuanced portrayal of Ammachy. This is a gorgeous piece of character work that combines broad humour with exquisite gestural detail. Andrew Ford plays Reaper with effusive, moustache twirling, malevolent glee; early on, when he still has the feel of a stock villain, I keep waiting for him to try to tie a heroine to some railway tracks.

The three actors are supported by foyer pianist Graham (Ayrton Foote), whose schmoozy, light jazz accompaniment tempers some of the deeper drama. I also appreciate the running gag about his ongoing and necessary presence but relative invisibility – a gentle metaphor, perhaps, for the cultural position of the immigrant. This is particularly fitting in a week where immigration is, again, a topic of heated, even panicked discussion within political circles in the lead up to the next election.

As with other Indian Ink productions, there is a meaningful engagement with, and deep respect for, mask work, be they the small or half-face character masks of the central figures, or the beautiful, oversized Basal masks that represent the silent hotel guests and the hotel’s chef. This latter character offers a small but significant B plot, and is a quiet highlight of the performance. 

The sense of wonder engendered by the masks is enriched through the costumes, the clever, economical set and the sometimes unexpectedly lively properties, all of which dance between a sense of realism and a twee, storybook ‘Oriental’ aesthetic. The theatrical trickery and sympathetic lighting is well suited to the space, but I am unconvinced that the main stage of the Isaac Theatre Royal is the most appropriate venue for the show. I am seated right near the front but still struggle with some of the sight lines, and I am left wondering how well those nearer the back were able to see.

This touring revival production, which celebrates twenty years of Indian Ink as a company, updates a little of the language and references, but it’s significant that its key social themes – most notably, the plight and poor working conditions of highly qualified immigrants, and the legacy of colonial trauma – remain salient.

The biggest alteration is its central love story, which is now a same-sex relationship; recent Indian immigrant Jojo the night porter becomes Jeena. I’m not sure I wholeheartedly buy the love story, as early interactions between the Jeena and Sasha don’t entirely lay the emotional groundwork for the later revelation of their secret but mutual affection, even if they come to have a warm and generous chemistry. This is a small quibble in what is otherwise an endearing production that, like Reaper’s famed aubergine pickle, achieves a delicate and satisfying balance of flavours.


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Left feeling warm but not coddled, thoughtful but not rattled

Review by Gin Mabey 02nd Jun 2017

Tauranga’s Baycourt Theatre was full of warmth and laughter last night, as Indian Ink graced the stage with their re-mounted show, The Pickle King.

Written by Jacob Rajan and Justin Lewis, this tale is set in our very own Wellington, wind included. The quick-witted and easily-exasperated Sasha runs reception, with the help of porter Jeena. Sasha’s aunt (who owns the hotel) is dead-set on setting Sasha up with a husband … but we soon discover this is just not Sasha’s path.

Enter George Reaper, the ‘Pickle King’, a fabulously-rotund, flamboyant mystery man with a few secrets up his sleeve. The story unfolds with love, past tragedy and revealed secrets. There are some great observations regarding immigration and the lives of skilled workers in New Zealand – it will certainly make you think.  But I won’t give the rest away!

In true Indian Ink style, the characters are masked, some simply, and some more elaborately. As usual, the masks are perfectly fused with the characters and mindfully incorporated into the acting.

The show is accompanied by the musical talents of Ayrton Foote. He is inconspicuous and still, but his presence definitely adds to the magic of the show, as do his jazzy tunes and lovely singing. He doesn’t seem to mind when his piano doubles as all kinds of other settings.

The set is brightly-painted and very functional. It’s clear that each aspect of the set has been meticulously thought-out and there is nothing superfluous or jarring to the story. The actors use and manipulate the set into many different uses for their respective characters and it is done with grace.

The acting style is interesting and refreshing to watch, I might call it Commedia dell’arte, or inspired-by at least. Kalyani Nagarajan’s portrayal of Sasha is crisp and deliberate, like a bird. The sweeping, rounded-arms of Andrew Ford as the ‘Pickle King’ reminds me of the old villains in story books I read as a child.

Vanessa Kumar is particularly impressive as both Jeena and Aunty. I like her warmth and humanity as Jeena, and spot-on physicality and vocals as Aunty.

I would describe this show as very tidy and tight, a very neat production. This makes for a lovely viewing experience because there are no nervous moments or wondering why a particular choice had been made. Everything there is there for a reason. There are a couple of times where I think the narrative bursts forward at an uneven speed, but apart from that, the story unfolds nicely.

I love how the writers aren’t afraid to use such strong symbolism and metaphor. Death, love, the role of the heart in our lives, and the strength of our senses are all symbolised beautifully and boldly throughout.  

Although I thoroughly enjoy the whole show, I have to say, my favourite part is at the very beginning. The show opens with a scene of unidentified characters coming in and out of the hotel in the most incredible, simple white masks. The scene is scored with a gentle, slightly melancholy song which makes me nostalgic for something, I’m not sure what. My favourite is the man we see again at the end: the long face with two dots and a tiny curve for a mouth. Such minute details, but still, I know exactly who that man is. I could watch an entire show just with these white-masked people. For some reason, they just appeal to me and I really love them.

I leave this show feeling warm but not coddled, thoughtful but not rattled. Well done to the cast and team. 


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Delicious theatre with a sweet and long-lasting after taste

Review by Gail Pittaway 25th May 2017

Indian Ink’s latest joyful production has themes of love death and pickles marinating away under the lid of fabulous comedy. Authors Justin Lewis and Jacob Rajan keep to their mask-theatre traditions, but here these skills are developed to incorporate even more physical theatre and mime into their particular brand of theatre magic. 

This is a refreshed version of an older play of the same name by this company, although to most in the audience a new experience. The changes work commendably, but the original play with its themes of the under employment of highly skilled migrant workers and heartless corporations mistreating workers, with no repercussions or reprisals, still reside in The Pickle King’s brine. So, unfortunately, do those circumstances in modern life.

Sasha and her aunty run a hotel in windy Wellington with Jeena, the porter, Graham the pianist in the foyer and a mime chef who has a pet mouse. As a traditional Indian relative, Sasha’s aunt wants her niece to be married but, having already been married once to a rather unusual husband, and now a widow, Sasha is reluctant to give her heart or her career away easily.

Into this little world of occasional bursts of elevator music, ’phone ‘hold tunes’ and jazz crooning from the outstanding Ayrton Foote on keyboards, comes the Pickle King, whose proper name is not revealed immediately.  Could he be a suitor for the aunty? Or for Sasha? Or is he death personified? And what of the growing sweet feelings between Sasha and Jeena?

The cast are all exceptionally talented actors. Kalyani Nagarajan in a nose mask as Sasha, nearly blinded by a chemical accident in childhood, is a diminutive figure with a gigantic voice and great skills in physical comedy. Her abilities in gesture and Indian classical dance are also well employed.

Vanessa Kumar, most recently seen in The Elephant Thief, works a double shift in masks, as Aunty and Jeena: two extremely different roles and each one brilliantly well executed for both pathos and comedy.

As the eponymous pickler, Andrew Ford gives a gloriously creepy performance, which contrasts with his other mime cameos as the chef and a hotel guest who has a fondness for the globe that sits in the foyer and can, as our own world might, be so easily toppled off its stand and fly away. 

The simple setting with its dioramas of temple scenes and Indian exotica yields many surprises, as the panels slide apart to create a lift, the piano is a world of opportunities for storing in and performing on, and a Wellington roof-top parapet is created for some great special effects and critical moments. The imagination of designers – John Verryt (set and costumes) and Jo Kilgour (lighting) – and technicians is a huge factor in this production, greatly contributing to the wonder and delight for the audience.

‘#Whatsworthpreserving’ is the Twitter moniker for this production and sure enough in The Pickle King the wonderful team of actors, writers, designers, musicians, directors, mask-makers and technicians live up to this claim.

Off the shelf and out of the pantry, The Pickle King is delicious theatre with a sweet and long-lasting after taste.


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Social issues rise above the aromatic spices

Review by Jackie Davis 11th May 2017

No matter whether you are completing the original set of three, or this is your first foray into Indian Ink’s world of masks, magical realism and absurdist theatre, you are sure to leave The Pickle King the richer for having seen it. Justin Lewis and Jacob Rajan have created a simple tale of love and longing, of desire and disappointment, but like a well-seasoned pickle, this production is multi-layered and leaves you with a tingle on the tongue long after the experience is over. The Pickle King’s nationwide tour, taking in both main centres and smaller towns, hit Gisborne’s War Memorial Theatre on Wednesday, May 10.

Following on from Krishnan’s Dairy and The Candlestickmaker, plays that have since become classics, The Pickle King was first performed in 2003 and is the third in this loose trilogy. This revival celebrates the twentieth anniversary of the partnership of Lewis and Rajan.

The characters who inhabit The Empire, a tired and faded hotel in Wellington are an eclectic bunch. There is Ammachy, who runs the hotel, but whose main concern is her desire to marry off her nearly blind niece, Sasha. Sasha knows she must not marry, however, because everything she has loved, has died. Jeena was a cardiac surgeon in India, but here in New Zealand the only job she can get is as the night porter in the hotel. Then there’s Mr Reaper, a bombastic and creepy guest, who has an obsession with death and who hasn’t slept for 21 years. And finally, the hotel’s pianist, Graham, is ever-present, setting the mood and supporting the action.

Kalyani Nagarajan is a wilful yet tormented Sasha and there is a real vulnerability to her performance. Vanessa Kumar is touching and believable as an eager, but purposeful Jeena. Andrew Ford delights as the unpleasant George Reaper, and all the while, Ayrton Foote at the piano plays on, expressionless yet conveying so much.

The clever use of props and multi-purpose staging enhances the action and provides real interest. Who would have thought that a globe could convey such pathos, or the placement of two pillows, side by side, could communicate so much. The masks, so central to the Indian Ink brand, are a triumph of construction and symbolism, both for the characters of the main story, and also for those of the side story, when Basel masks are employed to great effect.

When The Pickle King was first performed, the love story was that of a conventional heterosexual couple. In this iteration, Lewis and Rajan have altered it to be a same-sex relationship. Although this is not so shocking to a 2017 audience, ethnic and cultural boundaries have been further stretched. This, along with the other issues behind the main plot – that is, the working conditions of the disenfranchised, immigration and lack of opportunity for immigrants – are what audiences will discuss and debate after the curtain goes down.

“Some things worth preserving you can’t fit in a jar”. Open the lid of this intriguing production, let its contents spill out and inhale all the spices and aromas of The Pickle King. You’ll be glad you did.


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Well worth preserving and re-serving

Review by Val Watson 06th May 2017

Indian Ink’s national tour of their highly acclaimed, award winning play, The Pickle King written by Jacob Rajan and Justin Lewis who also directs it, kicked offat the Napier Municipal Theatre on Thursday May the 4th.  The magical modern day fairy tale was brought to life on a versatile set by an exceptionally talented cast and technical crew.

“Once the finest hotel in town, the Empire is now as faded as the dreams of the piano player who haunts the lobby,” the publicity tells us. “Ammachy runs the Empire with an iron fist and has one big problem; her niece is almost blind and she refuses to get married. Sasha knows she must not marry because she is cursed – everything she loves dies.” Until she finds true love, that is.

The gifted young actors play multiple roles with finesse and vitality. The audience is drawn into the Empire hotel by their skilful portrayal of the characters, and are filled with both humour and pathos as the plot unfolds. Vanessa Kumar plays an endearing and determined heart surgeon/porter Jeena, Kalyani Nagarajan is a stroppy and independent Sasha, and Andrew Ford is a rather pompous, menacing George Reaper. Ayrton Foot is the onstage pianist Graham who establishes the mood and sets the pace of the action throughout the play.

In true Indian Ink tradition, masks are worn effortlessly by all the characters. These include false noses, Commedia half masks, and the very impressive oversized white Basle masks worn by the gentle, silent characters who tell a sad love story of their own.

The painted set is compact and very versatile. A surprising number of acting spaces are easily created by the actors as the scene is changed by them to ensure continuity and flow. The sound and special effects crew operate the magical moving and flying props with slick precision.

To ensure that the play is relevant to today’s theatre goers, The Pickle King, has been updated by Rajan and Lewis. However, the universal issues of globalisation and immigration, death and the search for true love are themes that are as relevant today as they were when the play was written 15 years ago. The key phrase of the play, “What is worth preserving?” is rather poignant because The Pickle King is an enchanting play about human resilience, which should be preserved by being seen by audiences throughout New Zealand. 


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