Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A Major Mamet

Bit of gap in blogging this week, due to there being not so much Theatre in my life and instead a whole lot of Other. Most of this Other was rather tedious and involved Strepsils and deadlines and things, but some of it was fun, encompassing beaches and birthdays and bottles that make a pleasing popping noise when de-corked.

There was room for some Theatre in amongst the Other though, namely the new production of David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross at the Apollo in the West End. I sometimes find Mamet a bit too cock-centric for my liking, but there’s something so satisfying about this particular play, it’s a lean, sharp, surgical thing, not a word wasted. Having said that, I was only familiar with it through the 1992 film starring Jack Lemmon, I’d not seen it on stage before. But I really enjoyed James McDonald’s taut production, even if the actors seemed to take a while to warm up to the precise, distinctive rhythms of the language.

The play concerns a group of salesman who are trying to flog Florida land-plots of dubious appeal, all chasing the vital 'leads' that might cement a sale and a chance to win a Cadillac and, more importantly, hang on to their jobs. A strong sense of aggression permeates the writing, the oily lure of money coating everything in sight. The play is short, just over ninety minutes, which includes an interval, though its presence rather punctured the pacing. I suppose it's there to allow for a major set change, from the dreary Edward Hopper-esque diner of the opening scenes to the chaotic office space of the second act (a shift dramatic enough to trigger a round of applause on the night I was in, haven’t seen the set get its own applause in a while). The scenes are also divided by slides showing verdent valleys with evocatove names, like the Glengarry Glen Ross of the title, in a nice contrast to the sludgey, smudgey browns and greys of these men's actual lives.

The acting was also pretty slick with Jonathan Pryce both pitiable and curiously unsympathetic as Shelly ‘the machine’ Levene, a salesman whose best days are clearly long behind him. His eyes still glitter though, when he talks of how it feels to make a sale, to secure that vital signature of some poor sap who has fallen for his patter. I also liked Aidan Gillen’s sweaty, agressive turn as Richard Roma, though I found his moustache unduly hilarious.

1 comment:

Esther said...

I've only seen the movie, but I know what you mean about Mamet being "cock-centric." One of my favorite parts from the movie, with Alec "coffee is for closers" Baldwin, isn't even in the play, I don't think. And it's interesting that Jonathan Pryce is in the play after being in the movie. I've always liked him from films like "The Ploughman's Lunch" and "Evita."