The Guru of Chai starts at Bangalore railway station, India. Amidst all the chaos, noise, trains, announcements, ticket inspectors and countless passengers, there is a chai wallah, or tea seller named Kutisar, who makes his living selling tea to various people at the station. His life is not without problems: cash flow is always an issue, there is a Starbucks that has opened up next to his chai stand — and then there is the Fakir, a crime boss whom everyone fears.
Luckily there is policeman Punchkin, who protects Kutisar and the seven orphaned sisters who sing at his stand, helping his business to increase. But life isn’t all roses for Kutisar and the sisters, and what initially seemed like a simple story changes into something much more sinister.
Jacob Rajan proves himself to a very versatile performer, playing each of the characters with ease and slipping into each role with a change in voice, stance and movement. He juxtaposes humour with dark and sometimes disturbing themes and draws the audience into the tale.
The intimate Fairfax Studio becomes the round where Rajan captures you and takes you on a journey as a masterful storyteller. Only a few simple props are used, instead the focus is on the actor, the dialogue and the clever use of light and music. Rajan is accompanied on stage by Adam Ogle on vocals and acoustic guitar. His contribution adds a fusion flavour to the production and helps tie the story together.
A refined and polished production, the Guru of Chai takes you on a journey through Bangalore from the comfort of your seat. It really is the perfect example of storytelling, and Rajan is a brilliant storyteller.
Moni is of Indian heritage, was born in England, and has grown up in Australia. As a result, she appreciates all things fusion.
Guru of Chai runs 22–27 August 2017, 8pm Tuesday – Saturday, 2pm Saturday, 5pm Sunday (90 mins) at Arts Centre Melbourne. Book tickets here.
The venue is accessible.
Disclosure: The Plus Ones were guests of Arts Centre Melbourne.
Image credit: Arts Centre Melbourne.