The Perfume Garden is the story of Anand, who – with the ‘encouragement’ of his parents Satya and Chitra – is about to propose to his girlfriend, Devi. Anand and his family live above their business, a spice shop, which has seen better days. When not helping his parents run the shop, he also helps to look after Ayah (his mother’s brother-in-law’s something-or-other), an elderly lady who spends her time silent and still in a wheelchair.
There’s pressure on Anand from the beginning. One of the nice things about writer, Rajendra Moodley’s script is how this pressure gradually builds and presses on Anand. Even in scenes where he seems to be making progress, he never really makes an escape until the final moments.
But those first moments are memorable also, with lights up on Anand dreaming an anxious dream that turns into a Bollywood-esque version of The Bachelor, specifically with a dance number. These dance sequences run a charming path through the whole show. The dancers may have been a little cramped among the furniture during the first act, but it certainly didn’t affect their enthusiasm.
Director, Paul Watson, designed the set and you wonder if he had watched The Addams Family before making his first sketch. There’s heft to the set, but the purple drab lends it a cartoon quality – a sense of un-realism that isn’t out of place considering the events that happen after Anand rants in front of a catatonic Ayah.
The second act was too long, not helped by a bumpy start after the interval with a smattering of sound issues (I’m unsure why all those pieces aren’t edited together as a single piece to avoid queuing gaps), but these opening night hiccups always resolve themselves quickly.
Khema De Silva was ferocious and funny as Ayah and had great chemistry with Rajendra. Anand isn’t an easy character to play, as for a lot of it he’s rather annoying. However, the strength of Rajendra’s performance was that despite Anand’s pessimistic world view, he was a character worth caring about.
Sasha Joseph did well in the role of Anand’s ever-suffering fiancée, Devi. Scenes between Satya – played by Vishpreet Pradhan – and Chitra were wonderful, with some lovely banter whether romantic or in conflict. The Perfume Garden is an enjoyable piece of theatre, with a generous amount of surprises and sweetness.
The Perfume Garden
Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel Street, Prahran
Season continues to 13 August 2017
For more information, visit: www.theperfumegarden.com.au for details.
Image: The Perfume Garden – photo by Glen Wilson
Review: David Collins