In Paradise or the Impermanence of Ice Cream, Jacob Rajan’s dazzling solo performance can be summed up in one word: genius.
His metamorphoses between nine characters in the play – from a young computer salesman to an expert on vultures to a retired arthritic aunt and medical doctor – are seamless and lightning-fast, all performed without props or costumes.
Accolades for this Indian Ink production can’t be restricted to Rajan’s talent, skill and immaculate attention to detail, however. His co-writer and the inventive director of Paradise or the Impermanence of Ice Cream, Justin Lewis, is equally deserving.
The third contributor to this unique piece of theatre is puppet designer, builder and puppeteer Jon Coddington. The vulture he creates is so lifelike, and his manipulation so dexterous that the audience is convinced of the giant raptor’s authenticity.
And the sound the vulture makes when it flies is enhanced by the show’s quirky composer and sound designer, David Ward. Adam Ogle operates the sound with such precision that it’s easy to envisage Rajan’s mimed activities, such as opening doors and making tea.
Rajan’s and Lewis’s outstanding script is inspired by cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Denial of Death, which discusses the philosophical and psychological implications of how people of different cultures react to the concept of death. The script addresses our fear of dying and our frantic desire to catch up on what we aspired to achieve when facing the reality of imminent death.
The play’s second premise is the extinction of the vultures of India due to the proliferation of the human-made chemical diclofenac, the primary ingredient of arthritic painkillers such as Voltaren.
That isn’t to say that this play is a message-heavy diatribe. On the contrary, its self-deprecating biting humour, tinged with thought-provoking moments, carries the audience along to the end with the vulture transformed from a brutish harbinger of death and decay into a creature of beauty, intelligence and irreplaceable service to humankind.
Paradise or the Impermanence of Ice Cream is a tour de force and a powerful illustration of what theatre can achieve. Here’s hoping it returns to The Cultch in the not-too-distant future.
No further performances.