The path-breaking play by David Mamet in 1972 exhilarated audiences and rewrote genres. Karthik Kumar, inspired by the play, reworks the finer nuances and lunges straight at the point were every art form hopes to converge — at the heart of the audience. With ease, he juxtaposes the opposing hues — hues of existential poignancy with the relief of celebration. The audience that is told to listen to silence is flummoxed to listen to a warm piano performance next. Clinging on to excess baggage of life is dealt beautifully in a video. The conversation between the gawky and the mediocre in a variety of settings (one at stratosphere) discusses ducks. Ducks — mating, flying, crying, even smoker-ducks with lung cancer! The duck here is a metaphor for life, law, pain, friendship and death. A brilliant TM Karthik discusses a creation vis a vis the creator. There clearly is a sombre moment beneath the hilarious ones. Add to these, interspersed videos about children and You Tube films watched by aliens. Yes, there is an attempt by aliens to understand human psychology in a distant future devoid of humans. The play is startling, humorous and provoking. The complex nature of the issue justifies the director in adopting multidimensional standpoints. Every dimension, including the cast, dialogue and the audience, is a vital cog.
A new concept
Evam's ‘Chasing My Mamet Duck' was a new concept at least for theatre-goers like me. As they rightly said in the handout, “Do not come in expecting a play”! It was slightly sluggish in the beginning but Anil Srinivasan on the piano kept the audience mesmerised and it was an entirely different episode after that. TM Karthik and Yudhisthir Rana played their parts with great finesse: the online chat they had on the stage is worth a special mention. Karthik Kumar sure did make his presence felt during the interactive parts of the play — asking the audience to recommend a dish, to write a first-love message, and asking 10-year-olds about the meaning of life — fit in just perfectly. The whole experience was all about giving and taking and it surely achieved what it intended to in those 90-odd minutes.
I entered the auditorium thinking I was going to watch a play, ignoring the vinyl at the entrance that said “Do not come in expecting a play.” As soon as the play started I recognised that I was wrong. ‘Chasing My Mamet Duck' is not just an ordinary play — it is a Drama, Musical, Documentary, Short film, Interactive and much more. It is a trendsetting concept and a different perspective of the Theatre form. Karthik Kumar and his team have succeeded in transforming theatre in to ‘trans-theatre'. This transformation would definitely attract younger audiences like me to come and watch theatre performances rather than hitting the cineplexes.
Lessons in life
‘Chasing My Mamet Duck' came through as a play that appealed on so many levels and yet left much of the audience wondering what the point was. With representations on various levels, the play, if you could call it that, seemed to question various points of life and its meaning with no evident connection. Interesting clips from children on the meaning of life and clips on what the human race could be understood as 200 years from now. The contrast between life as we know it and what life seems like to someone untainted with the cynicism of everyday existence was interesting. The play involved contemporary devices that are natural in everyday life, from online chats to You Tube videos that speak of absolutely nothing. The play tried to involve the audience with live auctions and requests to text a certain number. Theatre unlike anything I've seen, ‘Chasing the Mamet Duck' certainly was an interesting indulgence.
Dhiya Susan Kuriakose,
‘Chasing My Mamet Duck' was quite the experimental play it claimed to be. The essence of the play was well conveyed and the interactive aspect of the play was unique, though the purpose was left to be seen — right from Zone A to the very nicely depicted ‘Leave Behind Your Excess Baggage.'
Karthik Kumar was in form, doling out highly entertaining pieces — right from his interpretation of art to children's perspective of life, which was absolutely hilarious. Anil Srinivasan's fingers flew over the piano in the form of heart-rending pieces.
Kasturba Nagar, Adyar
I generally like Evam's productions, especially their comedies, but ‘Chasing My Mamet Duck' was very patchy. Karthik Srinivasan and his companion's “ducky” conversations were way too loud and long. Anil Srinivasan's piano “interludes” turned into elongated solo pieces and got him repeated applauses — but tried our patience for play-continuity. Kartik Kumar's monologues were funny. The children sharing their ideas on life on the video were charming. But after some time one wondered what it was all about. Maybe that was the effect which they wanted to achieve. A word for Evam — Brevity is the soul of wit. And profound ideologies need power-packed performances and dialogues.
What's a Mamet duck?
The Mamet duck is not really a duck. It's an animal, perhaps; or a bird. Perhaps, it lives; perhaps not. The Mamet duck is just one of those things, really; life, the meaning, 42, anything at all.
At the heart of it, the 'play' aims at looking at life and its meaning. Through a clever collage of short films, monologues, dialogues, glorious piano interludes and even an auction, the chase appeals to your finer senses to take a step back and look at life. Spread across both space and time, it starts much before the first dialogue is spoken and ends much after the curtain call.
Funny, poignant, clever and existential, the Chasegoes through a range of emotions and takes you along on the ride. “Don't come here expecting a play,” they'd said. That's right. Don't. Go for the experience.
Boat Club Road
From the start till the end, it has the audience sometimes in splits, sometimes in confusion, sometimes in contemplation, as to what are we really chasing? For those of you whose definition of theatre is “a story in which actors play pre-written characters”, this play is certainly a must watch. It is an experience, an interaction with our own mind and our little Mamet ducks! Feeling confused? Well, even I was!
Keywords: The Hindu MetroPlus Theatre Fest 2011