Thoughts on technology

Much has been said about how technology has taken over our lives. So, what can a play say that hasn’t already been said before? Monkey and the Mobile, Perch’s latest production directed by Rajiv Krishnan, answered that question with élan.

The play doesn’t have the punchiest opening. It starts with the tale of a man who moves to a city and gets lost to the mechanised world of technology. Then follows the story of an old Malayalee couple — Darshana Rajendran and Paul Mathew — and their delightful antics in discovering a new mobile phone. After that, the play introduces many more quirky characters, including overworked emoticons and animals with identity crises, to explore themes like memory, connectivity and control.

The play creates a stunning world using tech products — mic heads, tripods, CPU frames and wires — and uses trippy live projections to set the tone and pace. It creates a visually-stunning world, but one which isn’t far removed, for the actors converse in Malayalam, narrate their stories in Tamil and sing in Hindi. Their English, laced with the common tongue, lets us know that these stories are about you and me, only told in a way that won’t want you to look away.

However, truth be told, halfway into the show, I had no idea what was going on. The projections were engrossing, the actors — Anitha Santhanam, Rency Philip, Rijul Ray, Vasanth Selvam, Vinod Ravindran, Darshana and Paul — were brilliant, the lights were spectacular and the performance looked stunning. But, the meaning behind the stories eluded me.

Take the tale of ‘The Interrogation’, for example: A young woman (Rency Philip) is being grilled about her fruit-buying preferences by a four-eyed projection (Rijul Ray). What did it mean for her to be asked if she counted the number of seeds in her watermelon? Was it, perhaps, a comment on the amount of data the Internet demands of you? Maybe it was meant to shed light on how mundane aspects of your life and your choices are put on display for the world to see, question and judge? It could have been the former, the latter, or something else altogether. But it made one deliberate the many possibilities.

Isn’t that, after all, the purpose of good art: to not serve the answers on a platter, but to make one ponder, while keeping one entertained? Monkey and the Mobile sure did that with flair.

However, since the stories were disjointed, some suffer the possibility of falling through the crevices of memory. Director Rajiv Krishnan’s winning stroke is his style of storytelling that breaks away from staid formats and presents an engrossing visual for the audience. Though a little rough around the edges, Monkey and the Mobile, with its use of live projections, sticky music and actors who break into song and dance, and never let the ball drop, makes a promising original contemporary play.

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Printable version | Jun 23, 2021 2:57:58 AM |

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