The Cultch

Paradise or the Impermanence of Ice Cream

When & Where March 23 - April 2, 2023, evening at 7.30pm & Sat & Sun at 2pm | Historic Theatre, 1895 Venables St. Vancouver

Performer Jacob Rajan Director Justin Lewis Dramaturge Murray Edmond Set Design John Verryt Costume Design Elizabeth Whiting Puppet Designer & Puppeteer Jon Coddington Composer & Sound Design David Ward Lighting Design & Stage Managment D. Andrew Potvin

Reviewer John Jane

Paradise OR the Impermanence of Ice Cream is a single-handed play performed by Malaysian-born, Wellington, New Zealand based, Indian playwright and actor Jacob Rajan. Rajan was inspired by Ernest Becker’s prize-winning book with the rather more straight forward title Denial of Death. While the play’s basic elements are mortality and a problem with vanishing vultures, Paradise should be viewed as a comedy.

Rajan delivers a mesmerizing solo performance as he takes on the role of the protagonist Kulisar, a chaiwallah (seller of tea) as well as Meera, a young Parsi woman, Baba, Meera’s Grandfather, Farooq, Meera’s cousin and a cold-blooded loan shark to whom Kulisar owes money. The transition is not always seamless, but the character changeovers are executed well enough that you won’t get lost.

One role that Rajan doesn’t attempt (thankfully) is that of a scary-looking vulture that appears on stage stalking our hero. Jon Coddington is responsible for the vulture’s movement and Adam Ogle for the sounds it makes. Despite his black clothing, Coddington is visible whenever his vulture is on stage.

The vulture (a lifelike puppet actually) is a focal point for the play’s subtext about the rapid population collapse of the Indian vultures which has seen the sharpest decline of any animal on the planet. The consequences have been calamitous. Corpses placed at the Tower of Silence have not been consumed by vultures, and thus, the souls not liberated.

Rajan incorporates a dose of Bollywood in his very physical performance. He also time-shifts between his present self in Canada (this may depend on the location of the production) and his 23-year-old self in Mumbai.

John Verryt’s set is essentially a block box, save for a faux concrete structure in the middle of the stage and multi-media screen backstage. Elizabeth Whiting’s ostentatious outfit seen on Rajan throughout the show is certainly in keeping with the performer’s flamboyant style.

Jacob Rajan takes his audience on a wild ride to Paradise. On the way, we also get a tour of the chaotic and cosmopolitan Mumbai (or as the Parsis still call it – Bombay).

© 2023 John Jane