Theatre Review: Paradise or the Impermanence of Ice Cream at Q Theatre, 9 June 2021   

Paradise or the Impermanence of Ice Cream

Paradise or the Impermanence of Ice Cream – A Wildean comedy on Death and Mortality. The loss of spirituality to the new God Science. Pretty girls make graves, the impermanence of vultures and why ice cream is sexy. Sort of like butter and Last Tango in Paris. The same source, cows also make an appearance.

A monumental solo performance from Jacob Rajan. I understand this is his thing, and the company Indian Ink began in this fashion with masks. This is my first experience.

We start with Kutisar, a middle-aged Harvey Norman salesman who is getting up before heading off to work. Except he’s dreaming. There’s a bloody great vulture standing on his chest pecking at him. He hopes he’s dreaming. He may already be dead.

We are pulled into this dream/after-life state too with Kutisar. Both observer and participant of his life. James Joyce is lending a presence too.

Paradise or the Impermanence of Ice CreamBack to his younger days as a chai wallah in Mumbai. The City of Dreams, Bollywood and immense wealth. The story is set within the Parsi community. Rajan is wearing large prominent dental prosthetics. To identify with probably the most famous Parsi, Freddie Mercury. He meets Meera, a young coquette outside a Disco nightclub.

Rajan’s movement is fascinating. We can see Meera because of the way she strokes her long hair. Inside the Disco and the dance movements morph from male to female seamlessly.

The story starts to take a more esoteric atmosphere, when they both find themselves looking at Meera’s Grandfather’s naked corpse being eaten by rats in a Parsi traditional Temple of the Dead. At four in the morning after the Disco.

What follows is a superbly written story on the contemplation of death and mortality. And therefore, it is a spiritual quest.

The other side of the coin for Indian Ink is Writer and Director Justin Lewis. They gained inspiration for the story from Ernest Becker’s 1973 Pulitzer Prize winner, Denial of Death. A cultural anthropologist who argued the hypothesis that culture for the human species acts as a strong symbolic force with which to transform mortality into a heroic quest. And of course, there is the Bardo, or afterlife.

The other half of the story is their experience of Mumbai. Anyone who has been there can attest to the immense vibrancy and energy of one of the World’s greatest cities.

With a judiciously written script and the talent of the sole actor, a big story is brought to life and afterlife.

Meera runs a Kulfi shop. It was her grandfather’s, and he raised her. Parsi tradition has the recently deceased placed in an open Temple. There the vultures gather, to complete the process and liberate the spirit. But they have disappeared.

Vultures underwent the fastest species extinction known. The play is also a hunt to solve this mystery.

The narrative structure at the beginning borrows from Norman Mailer’s Ancient Evenings. Dream and Death are intertwined into the same state. It all depends if you wake up or not.

The story is distinctly Indian. A money-lender makes a snake-like Mafiosi presence. Shades of A Fine Balance which was the story of Indira Gandhi’s Emergency rule, also set in Mumbai.

Paradise or The Impermanence of Ice CreamNever perform with children or animals said WC Fields. There is one puppet on stage tonight which is a life-size vulture, Vultaren. Steals every scene he’s in. Even does the Funky Chicken Dance. Courtesy of Jon Coddington puppeteer.

The stage is bare except for a plinth centre-stage. Large screen graphics on the backdrop.

David Ward adds musical colour and mostly subtle but on point sound effects. Except for the loud Disco.

One of the funniest characters that materialises is Meera’s aunty Dr Rao. Piercing Wildean wit and he does this character close to Monty Python style.

There is sorrow and loss and some tragedy. Undercut by humour. Equally it’s the other way round and the humour comes first.

All the strands are gathered together to give an emotional end.

A great all-round production, but an exceptional and memorable performance from the multi-channeling Jacob Rajan.

 Jacob Rajan, Writer/Actor. Justin Lewis, Writer/Director    

Rev Orange Peel          

Paradise or the Impermanence of Ice Cream is playing at Q Theatre, Auckland through 26 June.

Book tickets HERE.