“What you do in your cubicle is of utmost importance to the world economy”
Currently playing upstairs at the Royal Court is Disconnect by Anupama Chandrasekhar. It follows a team of 3 call centre operatives in Chennai, India as they chase debtors in Illinois, USA in the vain hope of meeting their sky-high targets. They take on American identities to try and collect credit card payments from unwilling debtors, but harassed by their new supervisor, himself suffering from a demotion, they are forced to play more by the rules, resulting in poorer performances, in turn forcing severe consequences for the team.
It’s clever, fast-paced, comic and very much of our time. It juxtaposes the role played by the developing world in picking up the pieces of the global recession, of course mainly caused by the Western world, with the continued aspiration for this way of life, despite it being exposed as unsustainable on a constant basis with every call that is made. But it is also an office drama, and its strength lie here in the depictions of the highly-competitive, target-driven environment in which camaraderies are forged and dreams chased.
Making his stage debut here as Ross, who is at the centre of the play, is Nikesh Patel in what is a stunningly accomplished performance. He oozes a cocky charm tinged with the desperation of wanting to be part of a world that is so close and yet so far, and the ease with which he flitted between very convincing American and Indian accents left me clueless as to what his real voice must sound like. Ayesha Dharker is touchingly moving as Vidya, epitomising the cultural conflict inherent in their work and I also enjoyed Neet Mohan’s puppyish Giri. Hasina Haque is under-utilised as the more senior Jyothi, displaying some great comic timing in the delivery of her lines in the opening scene, and I would have loved to have seen more of her.
The set is a harshly lit, stuffy, windowless room papered with bills and overdue notices, which constricted the action somewhat. I didn’t mind it during the play itself, but the endless reconfiguration of the desks which marked the scene changes did begin to irk me. And whilst the overlapping dialogue scenes were extremely impressive, there were times when it was hard to decide who to follow and it was hard to shake the feeling that I was occasionally missing things as people laughed around me and one particularly tragic event passed me by almost entirely until its conclusion.
Altogether though, I came out bouncing and really enjoyed it. It is so winningly portrayed by all the actors that the minor quibbles were forgotten and I can safely say that the Royal Court is continuing its successful run.