REVIEW: Glengarry Glen Ross, Playhouse Theatre ✭✭✭✭✭

Mark Ludmon reviews the impressive revival of David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross

Glengarry Glen Ross at Playhouse Theatre
Daniel Ryan and Christian Slater in Glengarry Glen Ross.

Glengarry Glen Ross
The Playhouse, London
Five stars
Book Tickets

Packed into the tight running time of David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross is a whole lot of desperation, despair and testosterone. This modern classic is a caustic portrayal of the world of sales, exposing its heartlessness but also celebrating the toughness of those who can succeed.

In this brilliant revival directed by Sam Yates, the play builds up slowly into a taut and gripping display of cunning and deceit as four salesmen are swept along in what is for them a matter of life and death. They are using every trick in their armoury to sell unappealing tracts of Florida development land to unwitting investors, fighting not only to save their jobs but also to win the top sales incentive of a Cadillac Eldorado. Second prize is a set of steak lives, third prize is you’re fired.

In the opening scenes in a Chinese restaurant, we learn what drives them and the lengths they are prepared to go to in order to find the leads and convert them to sales. It is a cut-throat environment, where they don’t seem to have noticed that they have crossed a moral line from professional sales to unethical hustlers who see “prospects” as no more than a way of earning commission.

Leading a top-of-the-league cast, Christian Slater is slick as leading salesman Ricky Roma, with an alluring veneer of unquestioning self-confidence that hints at a brutal core. With mellifluous deep tones, Stanley Townsend is perfect as Shelly Levene, taking us from floundering desperation to joyful heights, almost floating across the stage in his delight at making a sale. Completing the quartet are Robert Glenister as a man on the edge, out of his depth and ready to crack, and Don Warrington, who already seems too broken to carry on.

As the office manager, Kris Marshall is the steadying influence who treads a fine line between probity and the unethical depths that his team are tempted to sink to. As a glimpse into the lives that the salesmen are happy to destroy, Daniel Ryan is excellent as the mild-mannered victim of Roma’s sales pitch, ill-equipped to deal with the trickster’s seductive charms.

With set and costumes designed by Chiara Stephenson, this revival sharply captures the early 1980s when Mamet’s play had its world premiere at London’s National Theatre. Nearly 35 years later, it has not lost any of its relevance in its dissection of the American dream and its ideal that anyone can reach the top if they have enough wits, guts and determination.

Running to February 3, 2018


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