Glen­garry Glen Ross

Play­house, Lon­don WC2; un­til 3 Feb

The Observer - The New Review - - THEATRE - Su­san Shea­han

Liars, cheats, bul­lies, saps. David Mamet’s 1983 play, re­vived here by di­rec­tor Sam Yates with Chris­tian Slater (be­low) as top dog sales­man, Roma, still thrills as a spec­tac­u­lar in­ter­ro­ga­tion of self­de­cep­tion and greed in a world of mer­ci­less cap­i­tal­ism.

Glen­garry Glen Ross takes its ti­tle from a par­cel of dud real es­tate be­ing sold off by trick­ster sales­men to gullible clients, or leads, as they’re called in the busi­ness. At the end of the month, pressed by of­fice boss Wil­liamson (Kris Mar­shall), the four Chicago sales­man are pit­ted against each other in an in­creas­ingly ag­gres­sive com­pe­ti­tion to close the deal and hang on to their jobs. In this feral at­mos­phere, has-been Levene (Stan­ley Townsend) pleads for more leads, piti­ful Aaronow (Don War­ring­ton) is co­erced by sly Moss (Robert Glenis­ter) into break­ing into the of­fice, and Roma ruth­lessly ex­ploits a vul­ner­a­ble client. Tak­ing place in a Chi­nese restau­rant and the sales of­fice, the sets are well ob­served in all their 80s vacu­ity and splen­dour by de­signer Chiara Stephen­son, giv­ing Mamet’s scorch­ing lan­guage am­ple space to kick around. Sharp per­for­mances from the cast, par­tic­u­larly by Glenis­ter and Townsend, pro­pel the story for­wards at speed. But within this web of lies and de­ceit, Mamet, with­out re­course to moral­is­ing, man­ages to gain our sym­pa­thy for this sorry band, all due a per­sonal catas­tro­phe, used up by a sys­tem they haven’t a hope of es­cap­ing. There are chinks of per­cep­tion too in the king­dom of ig­no­rance. In the end, the worst af­front that can be dredged up isn’t in the litany of “fuck you”s, but in Roma’s cor­us­cat­ing in­sult hurled at Wil­liamson: “You com­pany man.”

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