By Raewyn Whyte
18.02.2012 / The NZ Performing Arts Review & Directory
Call Cutta in a Box is arguably the most delightful, charming, engaging 50 minutes I have ever spent with a complete stranger. Celebrating the inherent performativity of everyday life, the" show" is co-performed by an audience of one and a Kolkata-based call centre operator-performer, over the phone.
Some simple props set the scene - an empty office in a mid-rise building in Auckland's CBD. There are three framed photos on the wall, tea-making facilities, a leather half-sofa, and a standard office desk with an internet-connected computer, walkaround phone, printer, potted fern, desk lamp, fan, and a promotional desk pad for Descon Limited, a Kolkata-based technology development company.
The 50 mins includes a series of "events". Event one is finding the building to which your ticket directs you, event two is arriving into your office a couple of minutes prior to your scheduled phone conversation. Others follow, with a series of pre-scripted discussion topics which allow wriggle room for improvisational exchanges. The call centre performer is charged with keeping the pace up to ensure everything is completed within the time frame set. Some simple devices are used to add a layer of piquancy and surprise to events, and these all add to a feeling of cultural exchange. Unsurprisingly, a web cam features in events.
To describe what was included in my 50 minutes with the ever-so-engaging Madhusree would be to disclose many of the elements that make this experience so charming -- and as I would encourage everyone who can do so to take the time for this singularly rich experience, I will not disclose them.
I can say, without giving too much away, that our conversation was wide-ranging, and that Madhusree and I proved to have much in common. Our rich two-way exchange of personal and family information included sensory impressions, weather conditions in Auckland and Kolkata, dreams and regrets, travel, work, favourite foods and music, along with some of the philosophical and religious aphorisms which guide one's life.
I came away feeling that I had been talking with an old friend to whom I had not spoken in a while, and that it would not be long 'til our next conversation. Ongoing email exchanges seem likely.