John Napier’s stark, windowless set is the sterile working environment of three call centre workers in India who spend their nights collecting debts from American credit card holders.
Roshan, Vidya and Giri – known to their customers as Ross, Vicki and Gary – know everything about Buffalo, Illinois; it is their job to don American accents and persuade, cajole and demand that strangers living in the town pay off the inflating debts they owe on their Helium credit card.
Anupama Chandrasekhar’s play is set in an environment that we are now familiar with; indeed, even if a call-centre was based in the UK you would probably assume it wasn’t. Within it she presents the less familiar stories of the individuals who are affected differently by the tales of woe that float down the line to Chennai, and the responses they are ordered to give.
Central to the trio is Ross (Nikesh Patel), the rebel dreaming of better things, who gives a little of himself to his ‘marks’ – the debtors – in order to extract them from their debts. But when his friendly advice on evil boyfriends, philandering husbands and cake-baking crosses a line, Ross finds himself emotionally entangled with a faceless American woman whose considerable debt has dire consequences on Ross’s life.
As the fallout from his actions progresses, Vidya, Giri and their officious, inflexible supervisor Avinash (Paul Bhattacharjee) reveal their own weaknesses and vulnerabilities.
Indhu Rubasingham’s production inspires empathy for these characters, revealing the human frailties behind the voices. Nevertheless, contained as they are in the box-like room in which they work, their plight is just as easily shut away.