Play offers a new take on love story

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After studying Indian Ink’s play The Pickle King in Year 11, having the chance to perform the play’s leading role is thrilling for New Zealand actress Kalyani Nagarajan.

Touring to mark the 20th anniversary of the highly successful theatre company, The Pickle King reaches Dunedin’s Fortune Theatre next week.

The play highlights issues of immigration injustice and the plight of natural environments through the story of Sasha (Nagarajan), the blind receptionist of the crumbling Empire Hotel.

Sasha knows she is cursed – everything she loves dies.

However, when true love finds her, she can’t help falling.

And then, one night, Death checks into the hotel.

Indian Ink co-founders and writers Jacob Rajan and Justin Lewis The Pickle King for a new audience, centring the love story around a same sex couple – played by Nagarajan and Vanessa Kumar. Actor Andrew Ford rounds out the cast, while pianist Ayrton Foote supports the action on stage.

Each of the actors plays multiple characters in the richly comic, yet poignant play.

For Nagarajan, the experience of playing Sasha – a character she has admired for many years, has been “amazing”.

“It is an incredible role and a great play – I feel so lucky to be part of it.”

As with all Indian Ink plays, the actors use masks to switch between characters – a form of performance Nagarajan is very familiar with.

After graduating from Toi Whakaari New Zealand Drama School, she studied mask in France with master clown Philippe Gaulier.

“Using masks in performance gives you so much more range to be big and fantastical – I love it.”

Performing in The Pickle King is the start of what could be a long-standing relationship for Nagarajan and Kumar with Indian Ink.

The company plans to develop solo shows with the actors to tell their stories to a new generation of audiences.

The trilogy of Krishnan’s Dairy, The Candlestickmaker and The Pickle King is taught as part of the New Zealand Secondary Schools’ drama curriculum and in universities.

The Pickle King will be staged at the Fortune Theatre from June 21 to 24.