Reviewer: Jordon Houston
Tea, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (Kali ma!), impersonations, and live music. The Mourning After brings all of these and much more to the intimate Loft stage at the Q Theatre.
Reading the synopsis, I wasn’t entirely sure about how much I’d enjoy a one man show. Personally, I get images of overly artistic productions designed solely for theatre enthusiasts. However, I found myself pleasantly surprised. This show has a personality of its own and perfectly balances the comedic aspects of a quirky homecoming and the tragic aftermath of a natural disaster.
The experience of The Mourning After begins before you even hit your seat. You are welcomed with tea and asked to remove your shoes before entering the theatre. As you enter, you are greeted with music from the live band of four fantastically talented musicians. All this creates a welcoming and comfortable atmosphere which perfectly sets the viewer up for what is about to unfold.
The story is presented through the perspective of kiwi-born Shekar as he retells the story of his journey to Sri Lanka following his father’s death. Over the next 70 minutes you are introduced to a slew of cooky yet loveable, and downright hilarious characters. Each masterfully written by Writer and Director, Ahi Karunaharan, each feeling unique and very much alive. Of course, while the writing certainly contributes to this, the impressive acting on display by solo performer Jehangir Homavazir must also be commended. Jehangir puts his all into each of these personalities. Complete with distinctive accents and body language, it is always clear who is being referenced throughout. For one actor to bring to life so perfectly such as range of character is impressive.
The emphasis on the characters is only accentuated by the simplistic stage design. The stage is dominated by a square of sand, with four groups of props at each corner. To the right there is a constant stream of sand drifting from above. None of this ever distracts from the performer.
The same emphasis is also brought to the music. Atmospheric and complementary to the story throughout the entire runtime. The live music brings levity, tension, and, at times, suspense, to the storytelling. I found it thoroughly enjoyable and made it feel at times like a camp-fire story on steroids.
The Mourning After is clearly a deeply personal story, one that I’m sure many from Sri Lanka can relate to. The writing never feels too tragic nor too comedic, it’s just right in every way. It projects you into Sri Lanka following the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami but chooses not to focus on the devastation, rather its emphasis is on the people. This show is not one to miss and its unique style is sure to leave a lasting impression. I can wholeheartedly recommend that you go out and see The Mourning After.