There are no means, moral or otherwise, left unutilised to secure a sale, be it by lying, cheating or stealing, in David Mamet’s Olivier, Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning Glengarry Glen Ross. A searing portrait not only the dog-eat-dog world of US real estate in the 1980s, but of the consequences of a society inherently driven by capitalism and the pervasive culture of toxic masculinity.
Set over two days in the life of four Chicago salesmen and their quest to be top of the office leader board: Shelly Levene (Mark Benton), once top dog, now down on his luck and scrabbling for every potential lead from his younger superior; Ricky Roma (Nigel Harman) the man of the moment and front-runner to win the star prize of a Cadillac; George Aaronow (Wil Johnson), veteran salesman worn out by the work life he has to lead and veritable Pit Bull Dave Moss (Denis Conway) a seething ball of rage and fury.
The expletive-laden, staccato dialogue in Mamet’s 36 year-old play is delivered at machine gun pace from the mouths of four unscrupulous, highly flawed and hard to like protagonists, and at times the dense text and fractured phrasing proves to be a challenge to some of the cast. Whole swathes of the dialogue are swallowed by the vast auditorium – that coupled with some less than perfect American accents, relieves the play of some of its punch. While this is a cast of experience and quality, there are issues with some of the acting which appears forced at times and renders some of the characters more caricature than fully-formed forces of nature. That said, this is as strong an ensemble cast as you are likely to see, particularly Johnson and Conway.
Chiara Stephenson’s exquisite sets are some of the most finely detailed you will have the privilege to see on a UK tour: from the beautifully lit Chinese restaurant to the shabby down-at-heel real estate office, they are a feast for the eyes.
Glengarry Glen Ross remains a savage examination of a way of life that largely failed to pervade the UK, a snap-shot of a period of time that thankfully is all but gone, but, to be frank, it has lost some its power as the years have passed. Worth watching even if only to celebrate a culture and way of life best left behind.
Runs until 13 April 2019 | Image: Marc Brenner