London Playhouse has hosted the first London revival of David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross since it came to the Apollo Theatre in 2007. The play has history: it won a Pulitzer Prize and an Olivier Award, and of course, was adapted into a film in 1992 with Al Pachino, Alec Baldwin, Jack Lemmon and Ed Harris. Lemmon’s Portrayal of the character Shelly Levene influenced the creation of the character Gil Gunderson (Ol’ Gil) in The Simpsons, according to the commentary accompanying the episode ‘Reality Bites’.
At the Playhouse, Sam Yates (who directed the exceptionally well received ‘East is East’ UK tour and ‘The El Train’ at Hoxton Hall) gives us a fast paced embodiment of the American Dream. The cast includes Christian Slater (Mr. Robot, Heather) as Ricky Roma, Kris Marshal (Love Actually and that British Classic My Family) as John Williamson and Robert Glenister (Hustle – the BBC drama about con artists) as Dave Moss.
For those who do not know the play, it is set in Chicago over two days and focuses around the business of real estate. That is: persuading people to buy what they do not want nor can really afford. Realtors in America are not strictly comparable to estate agents in England, but I think those of us who have ever been in contact with one will agree they are a certain breed of person. For these men, buyers equal prospects and everyone is hungry for leads. Everyone has a powerful need get their ‘big break’ and rise to the top. There is a particular scene where Levene outlines the theatrics involved in executing deals with clients in which he describes the scared gesture of lending buyers his expensive pen for them to sign the sales contract.
The set was excellent, there was even real fish in the fish tank in the first act! It started in a Chinese restaurant that later transformed into an office that had been completely ransacked. While I was having a cheeky gin and tonic in the interval, the stage hands were filling the stage with props, and it truly was impressive when revealed. Annoyingly, the clock never moved (why were my eyes so drawn to it?!), and a picture fell down, which added to the drama… but I am not sure was meant to happen.
In the first act the curtain dropped down around three times to reveal three scenes of different sets of men. Here, I feel using a black out rather than a curtain (which we watched awkwardly roll down) each time could make the pacing of the play less clunky. Also, while the dialogue was rapid, there were times when the lines did not flow very naturally – someone would stop their lines to be interrupted before the other person had had a chance to interrupt them. The play’s very naturalistic form highlighted this lack of co-ordination and it jarred with me every time it happened.
This play centres around rowdy men in suits, and perhaps some of us would like to get as far away as humanly possible from this type of person in our everyday lives but it is definitely worth the watch. It will make you squirm, laugh and it made my theatre partner want to weep.
Glengarry Glen Ross is at the London Playhouse until February 3rd 2018.
Words, Dora Hemming