Performance Review: Paradise or the Impermanence of Ice Cream, Space Theatre, OzAsia Festival

A brilliant monologue brimming with existential angst and traditional Indian ice cream. 
Paradise. Image is a man is running away from a large puppet vulture.

The annual OzAsia Festival is always a treat on Adelaide’s busy cultural calendar. The Opening Night for 2023 saw The Adelaide Festival Centre and riverbank precincts lit up with colourful dragons and giant lanterns, along with the return of the very popular Lucky Dumpling Market by the Torrens. 

Jacob Rajan’s delightful one-man show Paradise or the Impermanence of Ice Cream, was one of the opening night Adelaide premieres. The show, by the Indian Ink Theatre Company (curiously from New Zealand, not India!) follows the success of their previous OzAsia production The Guru of Chai in  2018.

Rajan reprised the same central character Kutsiar; he also inhabited six other characters during his truly engaging 90 minutes on stage. His ability to switch convincingly between these very different personalities without relying on costumes or props was really a master-class in acting and inhabiting your character. (Rajan did indeed give a masterclass in Adelaide on Mask, Theatricality and Improvisation using Indian Ink’s collection of Balinese Topeng to explore the truth of the actor’s actions and the essence of theatricality.)

Like The Guru, this show talked to our most fundamental concerns, both large and small. It was about life and death, about family and obligation, about life on the street, the chaos of Mumbai, the excitement of disco dancing, and yes, even about ice cream – or Kulfi, the traditional Indian ice dessert, usually made with sweetened condensed milk. The Harvey Norman furniture store even got a mention.

Rajan was accompanied on stage at key moments by a large vulture, a key element in the Parsi death rituals. This vulture was a waist-high feathered and beaked puppet skilfully managed by puppeteer Jon Coddington. There was virtually no set and Rajan never left the stage; colourful projections and an immersive soundscape added intimacy and atmosphere to his brilliant acting. 

Paradise was written by Rajan with co-writer and director Justin Lewis. It was inspired by Ernest Becker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1973 book The Denial Of Death which centres on our refusal to accept the inevitability of our own demise. 

Read: Dance review: tiaen tiamen Episode 1, Dunstan Playhouse

For all its comedic appeal, highlighted by the OzAsia program image of Rajan holding a large melting ice cream, this show offered a serious meditation on life and death and presented it through a unique cultural and religious lens. It asked us to think about our beliefs and the things we value in this, our impermanent life.

Paradise or the Impermanence of Ice Cream was an absolute delight that will stay with you long after the show has finished.

Paradise or the Impermanence of Ice Cream
Space Theatre

Co-Writer and Performer: Jacob Rajan
Co-Writer and Director: Justin Lewis

Puppeteer / Puppet Design and Build: Jon Coddington

Paradise or the Impermanence of Ice Cream was performed 19-21 October 2023 as part of OzAsia Festival


Dr Diana Carroll is a writer, speaker, and reviewer based in Adelaide. Her work has been published in newspapers and magazines including the Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, Woman's Day, and B&T. Writing about the arts is one of her great passions.