GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS
Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham, Thursday 21st February, 2019
Having enjoyed this production during its London run, I am delighted to catch it again on tour with a new cast. David Mamet’s sweary piece about the cutthroat world of real estate offers plenty of opportunity for fine character work and this new company does not disappoint. The short first act is comprised of three separate duologues in a classy Chinese restaurant, and here we meet the main players.
Mark Benton (currently enjoying huge success in Shakespeare & Hathaway) is faded salesman Shelly Levene, desperate to claw his way back to the top of the Salesman of the Month board. Benton is superb; we actually feel some measure of sympathy for the man as he struggles to regain his glory days in this very dirty game.
Top of the board is Ricky Roma, a very handsome Nigel Harman, of EastEnders fame. He is top of this food chain, a predator, and it’s a pleasure to watch him at work – just as we might enjoy the shark in Jaws chomping its way through the cast. Harman gives us Roma’s skill at manipulation, his charm and his arrogance, but the sparks really fly when he loses his rag.
These two are supported by a tight company. Wil Johnson’s increasingly despairing George; Scott Sparrow’s distant Williamson; Zephryn Taitte’s rough and tough detective… James Staddon is almost understated as Lingk, Roma’s latest customer/victim, unable to stand up for himself against the barrage of Roma tricks. Denis Conway makes a strong impression as the angry and aggressive Dave. You want toxic masculinity? Throw in some problematic remarks about race and you get the measure of how distasteful this milieu is.
Mamet makes great use of stichomythia – the timing is impeccable – to build up natural speech rhythms. He punctuates the argot of the profession with the copious use of profanity. The men throw words at each other like punches – when they’re not trying to dominate proceedings with some anecdote or philosophising. The relentless effing and jeffing adds to the intensity and also the humour of the exchanges. It all adds up to a compelling piece of theatre. Definitely not an advertisement for capitalism, this play is a chance to see actors at the top of the game, delivering an electrifying script and reminding us, because apparently some people still need reminding, that greed is not good, and financial gain at the cost of one’s compassion is never a price worth paying.
Sold! Mark Benton and Nigel Harman (Photo: Marc Brenner)
Leave a comment | tags: Alexandra Theatre Birmingham, David Mamet, Denis Conway, Glengarry Glen Ross, James Staddon, Mark Benton, Nigel Harman, review, Scott Sparrow, Wil Johnson, Zephryn Taitte | posted in Review, Theatre Review
GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS
Playhouse Theatre, London, Saturday 13th January, 2018
David Mamet’s classic play gets an invigorating new lease of life in this snappy revival at the Playhouse. It’s a top-drawer production that allows the quality of the writing to shine. Mamet’s naturalistic dialogue, with its interruptions and stichomythia, is peppered with the argot of the characters’ occupation: they are real-estate salesmen, and the script relies on our intelligence and ability to put two and two together to garner what the terms mean.
Stanley Townsend almost steals the show as down-on-his-luck Shelly Levine, getting a new injection of enthusiasm when he makes a big sale. Townsend’s reliving of the scene in which his clients sign the contract is a scream. Townsend is a superlative performer and utterly, utterly credible. In fact, credibility is the watchword of Sam Yates’s production; his direction paces the scenes perfectly, with outbursts, crescendos and moments of stillness.
Kris Marshall is suitably wound-up as office manager John Williamson and there are big laughs from Robert Glenister’s outbursts of profanity as the volatile Dave Moss. Don Warrington is superb as the inarticulate, unassertive George, while Daniel Ryan elicits our sympathy as a customer trying to revoke a deal.
But the show belongs to Hollywood star Christian Slater in the powerhouse role of hard-selling Ricky Roma. Slater’s fast-talking but at ease, inhabiting the role exquisitely; Roma is the big fish in this particular pond. Both the humour and intensity of his performance are accentuated by his trademark circumflex eyebrows and smart-alec smirk. Expertly supported by a flawless ensemble, Slater’s charismatic presence is magnetic. Mamet allows us to see the character for what he is, exposing the tricks of the trade, or else Slater would have signing our lives away to all sorts of things.
Chiara Stephenson’s detailed set (a Chinese restaurant, then the guys’ office) grounds the action in its reality. The play gives us a window into a high-pressure world and, by extension, shows us the dark underbelly of capitalistic pursuits, which tend to lead to corruption and crime. Also, the play reveals how men are, what they talk about, how they express themselves. Yes, the play is dated, a period piece, with its references to typewriters and so on, but the racism, the sexism and the way men feel they have to lock horns with each other and compete, are still very much with us.
The brief running time keeps things punchy, condensing the brilliance of the script and the brilliance of the performances into a perfect, highly entertaining piece that still has a lot to say and that remains very funny indeed. Definitely not past its sell-by.
Top dog: Christian Slater as Ricky Ross (Photo: Tristram Kenton)
Leave a comment | tags: Chiara Stephenson, Christian Slater, Daniel Ryan, David Mamet, Don Warrington, Glengarry Glen Ross, Kris Marshall, London, Playhouse Theatre, review, Robert Glenister, Sam Yates, Stanley Townsend | posted in Review
Crescent Theatre, Birmingham, Thursday 7th June, 2012
The Ron Barber Studio at Birmingham’s Crescent Theatre is an excellent, little – sorry, intimate space with an interesting and varied programme of shows. This production of David Mamet’s 1975 three-hander maintains the high standard. It is an absorbing and powerful evening in the company of a trio of low-life petty criminals as they plan a burglary in the back room of a cluttered and dismal junk shop.
The shop is run by Donny (Gerry Lucas), who bankrolls and ‘masterminds’ the job – in as far as his limited abilities allow. He is a bit of a soft touch, especially when it comes to the younger of his acquaintances, Bobby (Michael Radford) and tends to lose patience with the more neurotic Teach (Colin Simmonds). Mamet’s language is earthy and deceptively naturalistic. Add to that, the humour, the underlying sense of menace and the low-level crime, and you have something akin to an American Pinter – this has been noted by others before me. I rather think Mamet is the link between Pinter and Tarantino. Without Mamet, Reservoir Dogs, for example, would be a very different film.
The cast is impeccable. Sleazeball Teach is very funny and yet repugnant and unsettling. Colin Simmonds is note perfect – when Teach finally blows his top and trashes the shop, it is an exhilarating release of the tension that has built up throughout the evening. And what a set it is! Cluttered with details, messy and lived in – this is a credible and workable environment. Colin Judges and his construction team have recreated a corner of 1975. In that studio space, the audience is almost sitting around the card table with the characters. When Teach pushes the shelves over and sends crockery flying, you feel like you will get clobbered. Mark Thompson’s direction keeps the pace up – the set may be cluttered but the action has room to grow, the characters have space to reveal themselves.
Michael Radford’s Bobby is sensitive, barely able to articulate his thoughts. You wonder what would become of him with a different pair of role models. Donny is the indulgent father figure, peeling off banknotes and offering dietary advice. Here I must make special mention of the Chicagoan accents. Vocal coach Jaz Davison has equipped the cast with authentic intonations. I couldn’t fault them.
Gerry Lucas’s performance is the lynch pin of the production and the key to understanding the play. Crime and business are held up as two sides of the same coin – not the rare coin that gives the play its title and the plot its impetus, but a bent, two-headed one. The men approach the burglary as a business venture. At best, they are amoral. This is their version of the American Dream – the right of every man to turn a profit. They are self-serving capitalists and, the play shows us, that road leads to ruin. Donny’s ill-advised loans to Bobby, the inability to handle setbacks (a fourth, unseen accomplice is hospitalised), the use of force and the destruction of the shop (marketplace) all point towards disaster. Suddenly, Mamet’s thirty-odd year old play is bang up-to-date and relevant to fiscal policy and the current financial crisis.
Leave a comment | tags: American Buffalo, Colin Judges, Colin Simmonds, Crescent Theatre Birmingham, David Mamet, Gerry Lucas, Mark Thompson, Michael Radford, review | posted in Theatre Review