Mrs Krishnan’s Party
Director: Justin Lewis
Company: Indian Ink
Mrs Krishnan’s Party, by Jacob Rajan
I saw the wonderful Krishnan’s Dairy when it was first at BATS a couple of decades ago, and as soon as I heard that Mrs Krishnan’s Party was in town knew I wanted to go.
The original one-man show epitomises the old BATS to me: a mesmerising tale told in an intimate space, weaving the parallel love stories of Mr and Mrs Krishnan and the Taj Mahal, told through the brilliant mask work of Jacob Rajan.
Along with Justin Lewis, Jacob is the writer of this one as well, but he isn’t in it (much to the disappointment of a couple of ladies sitting next to me – they were looking forward to seeing Jacob). It was pretty much the only thing to be disappointed about in a show that, although a “sort of a sequel”, could not be more different.
This one is ostensibly a two hander (not counting the audience) and takes place 7 years on, with Mrs Krishnan (Kaliyani Nagarajan) running the dairy, and acting as landlady, to James (Justin Rogers), her student border.
James is a cheerful and generous type, and he’s throwing a surprise party for Mrs Krishnan (whether she wants it or not) to celebrate the Indian festival of Onam, for which he’s has decked out the “back room of Mrs Krishnan’s dairy” with garlands and lights.
The audience are his guests, arrayed on assorted seats with a dining table at the centre, alongside a cooking station, ringed by the “inner circle” in the front row, the “cheeky seats” just behind, and space for the “wall flowers” up a tier at the back, with some “party animals” standing in between.
Like the original, this one weaves in Indian history and culture with the story of Onam. Everyone’s close to the action, and everyone’s involved, bedecked in garlands, blowing up balloons, stirring dahl or grooving along.
I found it a riotously joyful, interactive, playful piece that’s full of heart and energy, interspersed by quiet moments, grief, sadness, dancing and audience members helping out with the cooking.
As James, Justin Rogers open hearted energy was infectious; he brought a real joy to the proceedings. As Mrs Krishnan, Kalyani Nagarajan delivered witty one liners with verve and so thoroughly embodied her character that it was surprise at the curtain call when she let the physicality go, and the years and voice fell away.
In a review I always like to offer something useful for the actors by way of criticism: here I felt that sometimes the words were hard to hear – getting used to the acoustic in the space and audience all around, while managing to ensure everyone can hear is quite tricky. The play is undoubtedly hugely successful as a comedy: I felt it had more potential to go deeper, and tug the heartstrings more.
Who should go? Pretty much everyone – there’s energy and fun, no swearing or sexual references, so it’s a great night out for a diverse group of friends who don’t always like the same thing. I’m recommending it to my 12 year old goddaughter, her grandparents, and her father who “doesn’t really do theatre”. I think they’ll all love it, as will my colleagues, and theatre loving friends. If you like your dahl with lots of pepper, so much the better. Allow time to hang about after and have a taste.
Who shouldn’t: people who find strong spice smells difficult, or prefer to watch their theatre from the comfort of the dark.