Since 1997, many of the international plays developed as part of the Residency and through our International Play Development programmes have been presented as full p...… Read more
By Anupama Chandrasekhar
17 February - 20 March 2010
Jerwood Theatre Upstairs
Tickets: £15. Mondays all seats £10.
“You are part of something historic. What you do in your cubicle is of utmost importance to the world economy. If America is robust, India is robust, the world is robust.”
Your credit card is maxed out, and you hang up the phone on Ross chasing your payments. But Ross is actually Roshan and though the sun is shining for you it’s past midnight in his window-less call centre. With a new accent and invented back story, bright young graduates in India are renamed and rebranded as they work to claw back the cash spent by Americans crippled by debt.
Chennai-based playwright Anupama Chandrasekhar was developed by the Royal Court’s International Department. She attended the International Residency for Young Playwrights on a British Council-Charles Wallace India Trust fellowship in 2000. Her first play Free Outgoing opened at the Royal Court in 2007, transferring Downstairs in 2008 as part of the Upstairs/Downstairs Season.
The plays importance is that it fills a gap in our knowledge – India seen not through sentimental or guilt-ridden colonial eyes, but as it really is
— The Guardian’s Michael Billington on Free Outgoing
Age guidance 14+
Produced by the International Department
International Playwrights: A Genesis Foundation Project
Select a Date
Dates in February
|Wed 17 Feb 2010||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs|
|Thu 18 Feb 2010||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs|
|Fri 19 Feb 2010||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs|
|Sat 20 Feb 2010||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs|
|Sun 21 Feb 2010||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs|
|Mon 22 Feb 2010||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs|
|Tue 23 Feb 2010||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs|
|Wed 24 Feb 2010||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs|
|Thu 25 Feb 2010||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs|
|Fri 26 Feb 2010||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs|
|Sat 27 Feb 2010||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs|
|Sun 28 Feb 2010||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs|
Dates in March
|Mon 1 Mar 2010||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs|
|Tue 2 Mar 2010||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs|
|Wed 3 Mar 2010||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs|
|Thu 4 Mar 2010||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs|
|Fri 5 Mar 2010||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs|
|Sat 6 Mar 2010||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs|
|Sun 7 Mar 2010||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs|
|Mon 8 Mar 2010||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs|
|Tue 9 Mar 2010||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs|
|Wed 10 Mar 2010||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs|
|Thu 11 Mar 2010||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs|
|Fri 12 Mar 2010||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs|
|Sat 13 Mar 2010||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs|
|Sun 14 Mar 2010||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs|
|Mon 15 Mar 2010||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs|
|Tue 16 Mar 2010||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs|
|Wed 17 Mar 2010||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs|
|Thu 18 Mar 2010||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs|
|Fri 19 Mar 2010||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs|
|Sat 20 Mar 2010||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs|
Sold out Performances
All performances are now sold out.
There is much to admire in Anupama Chandrasekhar’s gripping account of that phenomenon of our hi-tech times, the Indian call centre. 4 stars The Telegraph, Charles Spencer, 23.02.10
The Royal Court has a long and honourable tradition of plays about work, ranging from Storey’s The Contractor and Wesker’s The Kitchen to the recent Jerusalem, which depicts, among much else, the vicissitudes of a rural drug dealer.
Now comes Anupama Chandrasekhar’s Disconnect, a gripping account of that phenomenon of our hi-tech times, the Indian call centre.
When my computer at home goes down, I phone a number to discover that I am speaking to someone in Mumbai. If I didn’t pay my credit-card bills, Chandrasekhar suggests, I might well be bombarded with calls from Chennai (formerly Madras) where she lives and has researched this play in satisfying detail.
It is set in a call centre where the staff pursue American credit-card defaulters. Some of them actually pretend to be American rather than Indian, adopting US accents and a detailed back-story, claiming to know Chicago intimately as they deal with the debtors of Illinois.
Like David Mamet in Glengarry Glen Ross, Chandrasekhar captures the banter and the feuds of a high-pressure workplace, where targets are everything and the milk of human kindness is in short supply.
There is great technical bravura to the writing, too, with three telephone conversations often taking place simultaneously as the Indians hustle the Americans as well as break off to utter asides to their colleagues.
There is much more to admire than to criticise, not least the sparky dialogue and cracking performances. In an astonishing debut, Nikesh Patel strikes me as a star in the making as the reckless, charismatic Ross (Roshan), the most cunning of the debt collectors until he falls in love with one of his debtors over the phone and jeopardises the entire operation. He superbly suggests a young man for whom the American Dream has become a dangerous delusion.
Hasina Haque is touching as the girlfriend he betrays, and there is a deeply moving performance from the ever-excellent Paul Bhattacharjee as the decent, worn-out office supervisor struggling to cope in modern India.
At once exciting and poignant, Disconnect keeps its audiences hooked throughout.
Disconnect, Royal Court Theatre Upstairs 4 stars The Times, Benedict Nightingale, 24.02.10
A young woman who variously calls herself Sharon, Jennifer, Michelle and Jyothi is demoting a middle-aged man with a marked Indian accent whose only name is Avinash. He hasnt been getting results in New York so hell be moved to Illinois. “Where is Illinois?”, the man asks. “On the fourth floor” : which is Anupama Chandrasekhar’s witty way of revealing that her play isn’t set in the United States at all but in a call centre in Madras, from which fake Americans pester real Americans to repay the debts they owe a credit card company.
“Its wonderful to welcome you as part of the happy True Blue family” is the company’s come-on, and “have a great day” at the end of every conversation, including those that simultaneously butter up, bully, tantalise and menace people who have spent money they didnt have on cars or expensive television sets at interest rates that rise inexorably by the day. These are conducted under the eye of Paul Bhattacharjee’s insecure, unfeeling Avinash by three young people who, since its daytime in the US, work all night with barely a break: prime among them are Ayesha Dharker’s Vidya, aka Vicki, whose ferocity causes a suicide, and Nikesh Patel’s Roshan, aka Ross, who pretends to be a blond boy from Buffalo and seems the most laid-back and ablest of all.
But its Ross who is the troubled centre of a play that has sharp things to say about subjects varying from Indian racism (Vidya desperately wanting to be white) to American consumerism (reckless spenders reduced by recession to tearful misery). What others see as the upstairs dungeon, an airless chatroom looking out on slumland and rubbish dumps, he increasingly imagines to be Chicago itself, the city of opportunity in which he yearns to live. Thats partly why he becomes chummy with a feckless American girl, unilaterally cancelling her debts in the hope that she’ll help him when he migrates and, as a result, getting into hot water on two continents.
The play never interested me much in the shifting bonds between long-distance loan sharks who are clearly victims themselves, but it’s intelligent, punchy and pointed. The moral: next time you suspect a call-centre pest is on the line, sympathise but ring off.