As part of their contribution to the gaiety of a locked-down nation, ‘Stan’s Café’, a Birmingham-based theatre company, have produced a show:-
Five faces floating in dark space represent all the workers in all the call centres in all the world. They are literally disembodied, and they take us through a variety of call centre scenarios – I. T. helplines, banking, roadside rescue. The faces come and go, sometimes the voices don’t match the lip movements of the visible faces, it’s all a bit disconcerting. Maybe a Birmingham theatre company could have found an Asian actor to represent Asian call centre workers, of which there are quite a few? However…
There’s a brief entre-acte where the workers talk about their day, we get a Samaritans-type intervention, the five women become the needy ones asking for help, the distance and isolation that call centre relationships are made of is placed centre-stage, and for the last 5 minutes of the 25 minute piece, the company articulates some of the human costs of electronic communication, living in isolation, connecting solely on a screen.
Stan’s Café has an impressive track record of innovative performance ideas. However, James Yarker, the man who directed and, with the company, devised the piece, said of it: “It’s not theatre, it’s not film, it’s an in-between thing. And I’m not really interested in that.” and I think I share his lack of interest. The last five minutes began to engage me, but most of the time, the piece was exactly as interesting as chatting to the cheery RAC lady when your engine blows up and leaves you standing on the hard shoulder of the M6 at half past two in the morning in the rain. It is a transaction, it is a human connection, but you really don’t care much.
Excellent performances, particularly from Carys Jones and Luanda Yasmin, and an intriguing idea, but it didn’t manage to escape its on-line cage.
Amy Ann Haigh
Created by the cast with Craig Stephens and James Yarker