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Monday, April 04, 2011

The Mourning After

BELIEVABLE CHARACTERS IN ONE-MAN SHOW
 
The Mourning After
Written and performed by Ahi Karunaharan
Directed by Miria George
Tawata Productions

at THE BOX, Buick St, Petone, Wellington
From 30 Mar 2011 to 2 Apr 2011

Reviewed by Ewen Coleman, 1 Apr 2011
originally published in The Dominion Post


Telling one’s story is an important part of any culture and using theatre as a medium f0r this is becoming increasingly popular. It is therefore interesting to see this happening with what many would consider a lesser known culture within NZ society, that of the Sri Lankans.

Although born in the Britain and raised in Sri Lanka for the first seven years of his life writer, performer Ahi Karunaharan has spent the past 21 years in NZ, including graduating from Toi Whaakari: NZ Drama School.

It his connection with his own people and his sense of theatricality that has inspired him to create a fascinating one man show – The Mourning After. Although the characters and incidents are fictional much of the material for the show has been garnered from the lives of real people.

The narrator Karunaharan leaves NZ to return to the family village in Sri Lanka with the ashes of his deceased father and a photo, that of an unknown women given to him by his father before he died. What he finds on his return is heartbreaking, the village is one of many wiped out in the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami. Little was left after the devastating waves and little has happened since. One of the characters, a fisherman, now spends his time, six years later, alone, foraging through the rumble looking for family treasures.

As the narrator meets up with various characters looking for answers to who the women in the photo is and what relevance she has to his family the wider issues of loss, love and family frictions are canvassed.

When Karunaharan started working on this piece 15 months ago, he would not have anticipated the disasters that were going to befall Christchurch and Japan would add poignancy.

Unlike many other multi-character one person shows where it is difficult to differentiate between the many characters, Karunaharan has limited himself to the narrator and four main characters thus allowing himself to develop these into real believable people with their own characteristics which he portrays with confidence and feeling. The uncle, the fisherman, the old lady at the gate and the niece calling the crows are all cleverly imbued with their own idiosyncrasies through gesture, voice and movement.

The stance, poise, bent body, turned in toes of each coupled with Karunaharan’s graceful agility to move around the stage brings the piece alive. There is also tension between the characters as the identity of the women in the photo is slowly revealed which adds depth, making it a most engaging and entertaining piece of theatre.
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