of Chai

By Jacob Rajan & Justin Lewis
Director Justin Lewis

  • Venue Downstairs Theatre
  • Dates 16 May – 4 June 2017
  • Duration 90 minutes (no interval)

    Modern India, a world of cyberspace and ancient gods.

    In the swirling buzz of a railway station, a young girl is abandoned and brings the place to a standstill with a beautiful song. Among the throng is a poor chai-wallah (tea-seller) and in that sweet moment his life is turned upside-down. Our Guru (Jacob Rajan) is a bucktoothed chameleon, channelling seventeen different characters and dispensing questionable spiritual wisdom as he plays out a serpentine tale of impossible love and modern-day magic.

    Marvellous. You feel amazed and dizzied by this solo turn of Jacob’s. His theatricality and skill are unlike anything that we see, really. – Eamon

    An Indian Ink Theatre Company production.


    Writers Jacob Rajan & Justin Lewis
    Director Justin Lewis
    Dramaturg Murray Edmond
    Lighting Designer Cathy Knowsley
    Composer & Sound Designer David Ward
    Set & Costume Design Concept John Verryt
    Musician Adam Ogle


    Jacob Rajan

    • Creators’ Note

      Jacob Rajan, Co-Writer & Performer
      Justin Lewis, Co-Writer & Director

      We met Nyoman Sukerta in Bali. He was a master mask dancer and shadow puppeteer. A squat little man who moved with astonishing grace and fluidity; always smiling, always laughing, possessing a weakness for beer and cockfighting, steeped in the
      traditions and nuances of shadow puppetry and masks, yet desperate to have a Facebook page. Gently worried about his growing paunch, his ambition toward wealth and status were at odds with his desire to go fishing at every opportunity. Indulging his children and exasperating his long-suffering wife, the man literally danced into our lives, and onto the pages of this play as a fully formed character. Sadly, Nyoman died in 2014.

      In Bali we experienced the arts as part of daily life; alive in all sorts of contexts, needing only the simplest of technologies yet displaying incredible sophistication of form. And of course the island and the people inspired us. The world of street carts and hawkers where ancient and modern collide informed the world of our Guru.

      The story itself is inspired by an Indian fairytale – Punchkin. This story got under our skin with its rich cast of characters and complex morality but its sprawling narrative held us at bay for some time. The breakthrough came when our dramaturg, Murray Edmond, encouraged us to set the story in a contemporary context. We focused on just a part of that original story and suddenly we found we had a romantic thriller.

      We’re drawn to the power of old stories and theatrical forms and take great pleasure in rediscovering them within a contemporary context. For us this piece is a collision of the old and new, the poor and sophisticated, the intimate and the epic; an old fashioned piece of storytelling… and it’s got great tunes!

      The challenge given to David Ward, our composer, was the one we wrestled with ourselves. How to convey multiple locations, the chaos and complexity of contemporary India, and a story that spans decades? The old form of the storyteller allows us to make jump cuts, and instantly change locations and times just like a film. But instead of technology, the power of the audience’s imagination is the vehicle for this. And as in a film, the soundtrack is half the telling.

      In our process we bring David in near the end – like the cavalry. Maybe it’s appropriate to finish with the words of a composer:

      “Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art.” Frederic Chopin

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