In any update of Dante's Inferno, there would be a circle of hell for those global fat-cats who clean up by creating credit hell for the rest of us – having first deluded the hoi polloi that those needless little luxuries were well within their means. Here, uber-wheeler-dealers would be trapped forever in the joyless, high-anxiety task of manning the phones in an Indian call centre owned by a US company determined to claw back the debts of Americans whom they had a vested interest in reducing to beggary in the first place.
Set in a Chennai version of this living nightmare, Disconnect, the new play by Anupama Chandrasekhar, focuses on a team of three frenetically impelled young Indian phone-operators; their sad, harassed supervisor; and the sleek Indian woman who is the Buffalo-based company's representative on earth.
Surging with its own countervailing comic resilience, the play is a minor marvel. It works on every level – micro, macro-, literal, metaphoric, and it effortlessly links the internecine tensions within the group to a world economy lopsidedly (and a tad superannuatedly) in hock to the US. And, in Indhu Rubasingham's phenomenally well-acted production, it does all of this with fantastic comic speed, an uncanny ear for overlapping dialogue, and a terrific sense of the metaphoric dimensions of the situation.
Making an amazing professional debut, Nikesh Patel is an instant star in the role of Ross, the cocky, yet desperate buck who has bought into the myth to the extent of adopting a Chicagoan accent and wiping off the debt of a female American phone contact who then... well, that would be telling. His infatuation jeopardises the work of his little team, who consist of the sharply forlorn, culturally conflicted Vidya (superb Ayesha Dharker) and the likeable, haplessly "modernised" junior Giri (lovely, spot-on Neet Mohan). They have been set a target of raising half a million dollars in recovered debt by 4 July, when there will be an American Independence Day fancy-dress party, symbolic of the fantasies of both the operatives and the US debtors.
Disconnect is the Glengarry Glen Ross of our day. It raises profound questions of identity and refers to an even darker world than that of Mamet's play, but with added brio and lightness of touch.
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