Ahi Karunaharan writes and stars in his one man play, The Mourning After.
The play is the story of Shekar, a Sri Lankan born in New Zealand. His father has just died, and he wants to travel back to Sri Lanka to spread his ashes. He also has the mystery of a photo of a beautiful woman, who is not his mother.
Karunaharan plays a multitude of characters, and uses his acting skills artfully to argue backwards and forwards with himself. Changes in posture and accent inform you as to who he now is. Karunaharan has a presence and charisma which dominates the small stage.
It took me a while to work out the plot, but it is worth persevering for. After battling his relatives in New Zealand, Shekar arrives in Sri Lanka. His family house is the only one left standing after the Boxing Day tsunami.
It is a house of mystery. Uncle Somu, the adult in the house, relives his days of glory as an extra in an Indiana Jones film. The young Raju provides comic relief and does a wonderful crow call. Malicious Aunty Saroja is the village gossip and then there is the women shut in the room.
The set is minimal, but effective, and director Miria George uses sound and light well in telling the story of Shekar.
I have to be honest and say that this sort of play isn’t one that grabs me. It was artistically done very well, and Ahi Karunaharan is a superb and charismatic actor. The plot revelation was just a bit too obvious I found, and I never found myself fully engaged on the emotional level.
That isn’t to say we didn’t enjoy the play. It was entertaining and many of the characters were entertaining and appealing. A one actor show is a challenging task, and Karunaharan rose to it.