Kiss The Fish – Indian Ink Theatre Company – Q Theatre

Indian Ink’s new play, Kiss The Fish is a story of family values and loyalty told through actors, masks, shadows, song and puppets.

We meet Lakshmi, Bapa, Sidu and Sidu’s mute daughter Grace in the tropical paradise of Karukum Island. However Sidu’s dreams lie in the city where he was repeatedly told he looked like Freddie Mercury. Now back home with his family he can’t see the attraction of island life. The life his father Bapa, a rice farmer, wants for him.

The arrival of eco resort developer Kingsley, offers the opportunity to free them all of their struggles by selling their water rights; an attractive offer to Sidu and his sister Lakshmi, but an absolute no no for Bapu. What unfolds is a tug of loyalty, morals and tradition, with the added complication of a love triangle between Sidu, a local girl Daisy and American girl Jasmine.

Jacob Rajan, who performs all the parts in Indian Ink plays Krishnan’s Dairy and Guru Of Chai, is joined on stage by another three actors.  Accompanying the cast on stage is the award winning musician David Ward. The child Grace is portrayed by a puppet, operated by Julia Croft, and from her first appearance she is as real as the rest of cast.

We first see the performers clambering around the theatre as monkeys. Excellent physicalities and characteristic masks ensure you are in the company of some mischievous and cheeky monkeys.

The use of sounds and song is prominent, and David Ward is flawless as usual. Playing an array of instruments, from guitar to plastic bag, his atmospheric and emotive score creates a wonderfully personal and intimate environment, as well as a comedic one when it’s needed. I enjoyed how he was playfully called upon by the cast throughout the play.

Jacob Rajan is outstanding in his performance of five different characters. He performs one of the highlights of the show, a musical number by Bapa regarding ringing his ‘Buffalo Bell’. Hilarious innuendo and enthusiastic dance moves are key! He also plays Govind, who is obsessed with his bowel movements, Kingsley the resort developer, the inappropriate Father John and the lowly lovesick Fisherman, who acts as our narrator.  Jacob’s transitions between characters is impeccable and his skill is such that if you didn’t know otherwise, you would assume there were five different actors behinds those masks.

Nisha Madhad as Lakshmi and Daisy explored many sides of femininity with lots of fun within her roles, from feisty and determined, to loved up and coy. Julia Croft not only does an impressive job as a puppeteer, but also has two main roles in the play. Elderly Kochima, Daisy’s mother, and Jasmine, the rather repulsive American stretch her performance skills and demonstrates her admirable abilities. Her solo songs are beautiful and moving.

I loved James Roque as Sidu. He gave an entertaining and fun performance. His comic agility allowed for much playfulness with wonderful timing and delivery, his dexterity was obvious. As Sidu matured and changed throughout the play, James had the chance to add dimensions to his character. He was lively, honest and hilarious in his portrayal of this loveable character.

The bespoke masks are very unique and take a few minutes to get used to. These hand crafted creations are filled with character and charm creating an individual personality in each.

The set is simple using sliding curtains, lighting and sound to create the scenes. It is a further compliment to the performances and score that Kiss The Fish can achieve such a mesmerising and immersive experience for the audience. I enjoyed their playful breaking of the fourth wall, which they execute brilliantly without compromising the story. Indian Ink’s unique style of storytelling really is a gem of New Zealand theatre. They bring together culture, music, talent and an overall theatrical experience like no other. Don’t miss Kiss The Fish, it’s bound to be the most talked about production of the year.

Reviewed by Ingrid Grenar

Kiss The Fish is at Q Theatre until 5 October.