The Whingers were feeling a little disconnected themselves on Tuesday evening having spent the day fielding queries left, right and centre as the Paint Never Dries media scrum centred rather discombobulatingly around them. Well, it was actually centred around Love Never Dies, but it’s as close as the Whingers are ever likely to get to being at the centre of a media scrum. Looking it up in Wikipedia it seems that the Whingers were probably the number eights in the media scrum and interestingly the players in this position tend to have the physical strength of a tight forward along with the mobility and pace of loose forwards. Really, what else is there to be said on the matter?
Anyhoo, the point is that after a day punctuated by frantic phone calls from very busy TV executives it seemed somewhat appropriate that the Whingers’ chauffeured limousine (We know! Courtesy of Sky News!) should whisk them on to the Royal Court Theatre to see Anupama Chandrasekhar‘s Disconnect which is set in an Indian call-centre. Or if it isn’t appropriate, it’s the best we can come up with.
Roshan (Nikesh Patel), Vidya (Ayesha Dharker) and newcomer Giri (Neet Mohan) work on the Illinois floor of a debt collection agency chasing up payments from credit card defaulters. On the phone the boys use western names – Ross and Gary – end employ American accents.
In John Napier‘s box set (noticeably bare considering it’s from the man who designed the somewhat fussier Cats, Lez Miz, Starlight Express and, umm, Gone With The Wind) the workers track down their often elusive “marks” and try to persuade them to make payments. This all three sometimes do simultaneously which did the Whingers’ heads in a bit, but looking at it uncharacteristically unselfishly from the actors’ points of view we think it must have been even worse having to learn and rehearse it and then do it night after night. Anyway, Indhu Rubasingham‘s direction has ensured their efforts were productive and they brought it off quite astonishingly for a 90 minute play that must have been more like three hours of dialogue on the page.
Sometimes this works against itself and you’re not sure who to listen to, especially as the story begins to focus around Ross/Roshan, the most successful dynamic and devious member of the team as he falls in love with an American debtor and putting his future and the welfare of his team in jeopardy in the process. But is Ross really in love or his he in love with the American dream?
Patel’s performance is extraordinarily charismatic and as things start to go wrong rather gripping. There is fine support from Paul Bhattacharjee, Mohan and especially Dharker who impressively produces real tears on cue and even more thrillingly (for Phil) once played Dev’s girlfriend in Coronation Street.
Along the way the play touches on themes of race, ambition and loyalty with nods to the world’s financial situation, so there was plenty to keep the Whingers absorbed for the full 90 minutes.
Andrew was slightly disappointed as he was expecting more tensions between the Indian workers and their American personas. But this turned out to be a a different play whose characters were more than happy to emulate and pursue the American lifestyle and even an American partner. But the result was that it strangely seemed as if this play could just as easily be set in a Runcorn call centre with only minor modifications to the text. In which case, why set it in India? To which the answer, of course, is “Why not?”
But still… something continued to gnaw at the back of Andrew’s so-called brain which prevented him from fully accepting the Indian location. That it hit him: the presence of Type G power sockets whereas everyone knows that India uses types C, D and M.