Mrs. Krishnan’s Party picks up 20 years on from Indian Ink’s very first (and perhaps most well recognised) production Krishnan’s Dairy, continuing a masterful legacy of exuberant, original and veritably touching Indian-inspired Kiwi theatre.
The play unfolds in the home of the no-nonsense but good-hearted Mrs. Krishan as she prepares for the arrival of her son in time for the auspicious Indian festival of Onam – only to have her plans upended by her excitable student boarder James (Justin Rogers) when he extends us, the audience, an invitation to join what was intended to be a family soiree. In between all this cause for celebration Mrs. Krishnan is grappling with the hard decision of selling up the cherished family dairy. Still, we’re treated to Mrs. Krishnan’s very generous Indian hospitality (and banter) – given floral garlands, bindis, and scarves – to join in on the joyous occasion celebrating the mythical King Mahabali, whose spirit is said to return to Kerala during Onam. Dressed the part, loudmouthed ‘DJ Jimmy’ James is determined to put on the best Onam party for the guests, complete with remixed Indian dance beats, and we’re fully immersed in the drama that ensues.
As a diaspora kid with her roots in Kerala, I was pretty intrigued to see how the production would centre such an important occasion within the narrative, and Mrs. Krishnan’s Party did not disappoint, capturing the magic of community celebration quite unlike any other production I’ve attended, with many audience members staying behind after the show to enjoy some warm dahl and rice with the cast (cooked on set!). Kalyani Nagarajan is absolutely magical in her role, I was lost in her performance of the wisecracking Zina Krishnan clamouring about, rattling off instructions to startled audience members, and her rapport with the audience allowed the suspension of disbelief necessary to take us outside of the set onstage.
Mrs. Krishnan’s Party is a charming, innovative production, and well-worth the ticket to the party.