Playwright credits creative partner

SOPHIE SPEER
Last updated 05:00 31/12/2012
Jacob Rajan
CRAIG SIMCOX/Fairfax NZ
MODESTY UNMASKED: Actor and playwright Jacob Rajan feels awkward at being singled out but says it is a 'huge honour'.

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After playing the same characters for 15 years, playwright and actor Jacob Rajan says each time it is like meeting old friends.

The Wellingtonian, best known for his one-man shows Krishnan's Dairy and The Candlestickmaker, has been made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Rajan was born in Malaysia and moved to New Zealand when he was 4. After studying at Toi Whakaari Drama School, he created Indian Ink Theatre company with director Justin Lewis in 1996.

One year later they debuted Krishnan's Dairy, which fuses together the love story behind the creation of the Taj Mahal and life in a corner dairy. Rajan plays every character through the use of masks, and the company continues to tour with the show.

Rajan said of his award that, while he was the face of their plays, he was standing on the shoulders of Lewis.

"To be honest, my initial response was guilt. I'm part of a theatre company . . . [and] to be singled out is always icky. But obviously it is a huge honour."

The pair have toured their performances internationally, including the most recent Guru of Chai.

Kiwi audiences were more inclined to keep their emotions closer to their chests than others, Rajan said.

"[American audiences] are so overwhelming, but playing to Kiwi audiences the response is . . . quite conservative. Americans give standing ovations, but Kiwis are a bit reserved."

In two weeks, the company will perform Guru of Chai in New York, Florida and Kansas, before returning to Wellington to perform both Guru of Chai and Krishnan's Dairy at Downstage in April.

"It's our first play and our latest play together, so it shows the growth of our storytelling," Rajan said.

Krishnan's Dairy has grown and developed in the 15 years since its first performance.

"These characters are really in me. There's a whole new level of performance because people are always about the next work, about something new. But there is substance to these characters, they have shadows."

Rajan received an Arts Foundation Laureate Award in 2002. He lives in Wellington with wife Philippa, and children, Isaac, 12, Dominic, 10, and Nina, 8.

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