Catch the Ele­phant Thief


Imag­ine a fu­ture where In­dia was the most powerful coun­try on Earth, wild ele­phants faced im­mi­nent ex­tinc­tion and hu­man­ity was not far be­hind.

That is the sce­nario ex­plored in the In­dian Ink Theatre Com­pany’s lat­est pro­duc­tion, The Ele­phant Thief.

Billed as ‘‘an out­ra­geous new pro­duc­tion full of laugh­ter and heart­break’’ brim­ming with ‘‘the­atri­cal magic, mis­chievous wit and in­spired lu­nacy,’’ the play fol­lows Leela Devi as she leaves her tribal home to see the world – she doesn’t ex­pect her fa­ther’s ele­phant to fol­low her.

An un­likely love story – and a quiet revolution – un­folds as she takes on cor­rupt of­fi­cials, hun­gry poach­ers, fa­nat­i­cal lead­ers and supreme be­ings.

Re­cent Toi Whakaari grad­u­ate Vanessa Ku­mar stars as Devi.

She said play­ing the grounded char­ac­ter had been fun, and the op­por­tu­nity to work with In­dian Ink col­lab­o­ra­tors Ja­cob Ra­jan and Justin Lewis meant a long-held am­bi­tion had been re­alised.

‘‘I have to pinch my­self. In­dian Ink has al­ways been on my mind since high school – it’s re­ally cheesy, but it’s a dream come true,’’ Ku­mar said.

Ra­jan, who lives in Ngaio with his young fam­ily, said he had wanted to cast Ku­mar after see­ing her per­form a solo piece at the New Zealand Drama School.

‘‘I was just so taken by her per­for­mance. There’s not that many qual­ity In­dian ac­tors and the part de­manded some­one who could han­dle the range. She just fell from the sky,’’ Ra­jan said.

Ra­jan said the play, in­spired by a trip he made to In­dia, wove to­gether el­e­ments of song and com­edy while touch­ing on the more se­ri­ous is­sue of hu­mankind’s ef­fect on the planet.

With ex­perts warn­ing that ele­phants could be ex­tinct in the wild within the next few decades, The Ele­phant Thief paid homage to this beau­ti­ful an­i­mal while paint­ing a pic­ture of a not-so-farflung fu­ture, he said.

The com­pany, which has seven plays in its reper­toire, uses masks to cre­ate plays that abound with emo­tion.

It has toured the world with hits in­clud­ing Kiss the Fish, Guru of Chai and Kr­ish­nan’s Dairy.

In­dian Ink Theatre Com­pany’s The Ele­phant Thief is on at the Han­nah Play­house un­til June 4.

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