Glengarry Glen Ross review at New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham – ‘slick but underpowered’
David Mamet’s taut, intense 1983 play about men on the edge has, if anything, gained in resonance over the years. With its tight focus on the desperation and bravado of a group of American salesmen, it’s an acute, revealing piece.
Sam Yates’ slick production enjoyed a successful West End run in 2017 with a cast that featured Christian Slater. Now it embarks on a UK tour with a new cast including Mark Benton and Nigel Harman.
Glengarry Glen Ross takes its time setting up the robbery that fuels the narrative, but once the location shifts from run-down Chinese restaurant to the men’s ransacked office it really gets going.
Of the new cast, Benton has the requisite sad-sack quality as Shelly ‘The Machine’ Levine, his genial façade concealing his anxiety that he’s lost his touch – you can see the panic flickering behind his eyes; but when he thinks he’s made a big sale, it’s also possible to glimpse the slick operator he used to be.
Harman is suitably smooth as hotshot Ricky Roma, but until his final explosion his performance lacks the necessary cocktail of charm, aggression and menace.
There’s a nice turn from Denis Conway as the blustery Moss, hollering himself puce from behind a Swiss Tony moustache, relishing the invective. Not everyone handles Mamet’s staccato dialogue with the same aplomb. Some of the pauses and hitches in delivery feel too mannered and self-conscious and this has an impact on the pacing. But Chiara Stephenson’s set remains a thing of wonderment – her impeccably detailed 1980s office all but reeks of stale coffee, cigarette smoke and men’s sweat.
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