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.


Jacob Rajan


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

Performance Times

Tuesday & Wednesday 7pm
Thursday & Friday 8.15pm
Saturday 2.15pm & 8.15pm
Sunday 5.15pm

Preview (bookable)
7pm, 16 May

Opening night (invitation only)
7pm, 17 May

Running Time
90 minutes, no interval


Belvoir’s ticket prices can be dynamically adjusted either up or down without notice. This can apply to a small number of tickets in response to demand for a specific performance date or time.

Prices listed on the Ticket Prices page account for the majority of tickets but please contact Box Office for current prices on all tickets available. Full ticket terms and conditions are also available on the same page.

Single tickets for Guru of Chai go on sale to the general public on 30 January 2017. Book a subscription to secure tickets now. 

Some of our productions at Belvoir may contain strong language, smoking, nudity, violence, strobe lighting, haze or other things you may find confronting or uncomfortable. If you are concerned about any of these please ask our Box Office staff about content when booking.



Guru of Chai is pure magic … must be seen by all lovers of theatre.

Moreen Eason & John Jefferies | Theatre Review, Dunedin

A gift.

James Wenley | Theatre Scenes, Auckland

Rajan’s performance is a mesmerising blend of dazzling showmanship and pure charisma.

Paul Simei-Barton | NZ Herald

Flawless…Cleverly constructed, full of melodramatic twists and humorous asides.

Jason Blake | Eight Nights A Week

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