The magic of Indian Ink returns after a period of international touring with a new work that has the shrewdness of fable combined with the sweetness of a pop song.
Kiss the Fish is a comic love story of epic proportions set in a battlefield where the preservation of traditional culture comes up against the ravenous demands of economic development.
The show pays homage to Balinese comic mask traditions with a bizarre menagerie of exotic characters peering out at us from beneath exquisitely carved wooden masks.
The masked figures are wildly exaggerated caricatures played in elegant pantomime style, but each is given a subtle range of emotions and presents a thoroughly contemporary perspective on ancient archetypes.
The wonderfully unpredictable narrative zig-zags around the expected trajectories of a love story and finds time for a surreal excursion into the weird world of Freddie Mercury. Along the way we are treated to bawdy humour, enchanting music, and some sharp analysis of the unpleasant options available to Third World nations.
The four-person ensemble takes on multiple roles and David Ward's brilliant one-man-band is cheerfully assisted by a tribe of monkeys.
Jacob Rajan establishes a commanding presence as he flits between half a dozen clearly drawn characters. Julia Croft displays great puppetry skills and a fine singing voice as she nails the narcissism of an American tourist.
Nisha Madhan captures the anguish of a woman torn between following her head or her heart, while James Roque anchors the show with an appealing portrait of a well-meaning everyman.
It is a bit of a stretch to compare Indian Ink with Emirates Team New Zealand, but in their own ways both embody qualities that make us proud to be Kiwis: a down-to earth practicality, global ambitions, boundless optimism and a deep appreciation of the power of co-operative effort.
What: Kiss the Fish
Where and when: Q Theatre until October 5