Edinburgh Fringe 2016
“From Kerala to Camden, an epic, mystical tale of love, loss and soul-food. A cobbler and a cook concoct a delicious transcontinental enchantment as tragedy and chance entwine. As Katie dreams of curries and chapattis; Ajna, of holy souls and reincarnation… A delightful, poetic, magical story that conjoins the spirit of India with the heart of London”
A solo show, written and performed by Clair Whitfield and directed by Guy Masterton, which is a mix of prose and storytelling, physical theatre and character performance weaving London and India in a tale of fate, friendship and personal transformation.
This is a tale set mainly in Camden where Ajna, an Indian martial arts teacher from Kerala, unexpectedly inherits a cobbler’s shop due to the death of an uncle. New to the metropolis Ajna quickly learns the cobbler’s art and sets about trying to help those with whom he comes into contact with by engineering slithers of insole to work some kind of magic on the meridians in the feet and thus bring about life changes in the wearer of the repaired shoes. Katie, the other main character of the piece, open’s a pop-up Indian delicatessen next door and Anja becomes her food taster and adviser on the exacting science of Keralan food preparation processes and technique. The ensuing friendship, as well as a number of other minor characters that appear passim, is the main emotional meat of the piece as they connect to each other in unexpected ways. As an out-of-towner with a rather traumatic history, Ajna is somewhat comparable to the lone cowboy of Western movies who, due to his own story, can never take root in town but nevertheless is a source of transformation for those around him and is himself transformed.
It is delivered by Whitfield with much gusto and panache and I found her prose and rhyme to be sophisticated and very pleasing, and her physical delivery via her postures and quasi-dance enactments was not overplayed. The delivery was word perfect with not a single slip. Her alternate bouts of storytelling and character enactment were seamless and well written, although her demeanour in character and her storyteller persona were rather too much of a contrast which I felt needed a bit more work. The storytelling tended ever so slightly towards getting lost amidst the larger than life characters which she portrayed and I felt that if she was more measured in storytelling prose-mode, with greater cadences and pitch variation, then the occasional lulls in energy could have been circumvented.
However, this is a very minor criticism and it hardly detracted from my enjoyment of the piece. It is an enthralling tale, full of charm and atmosphere, well executed with great enthusiasm by Whitfield – and a few laughs along the way too.
Reviewer: Leslie Lane (Posted by the editor)