Glengarry Glen Ross

David Mamet
Library Theatre
Library Theatre, Manchester

Glengarry Glen Ross

Mamet's testosterone-filled tale of real estate salesmen at the bottom of the heap in Chicago is a short sharp shock of combative language and a glimpse inside the crumbling American Dream in the early 1980s.

The first act is a series of three duologues in a Chinese restaurant. Older salesman Shelly Levene desperately tries to convince office manager John Williamson that if he gives him some of the new sales leads he can get back to his old form, even resorting to bribery. Dave Moss talks to George Aaronow about a plan to steal the leads from the office and sell them to a rival broker, but they are "just talking". Hot salesman Richard Roma chats casually to James Lingk on the next table and talks him into buying some property. The longer second act is in the sales office, trashed after a robbery, where police officer Baylen disappears into a side office with the salesmen one at a time to question them about the incident.

Mamet's dialogue always poses a challenge for actors, as it consists of half-sentences, half-words, odd hesitations and overlapping lines in a heightened imitation of natural speech which is difficult to learn and even more difficult to deliver in a natural manner. This production takes a more relaxed approach to the delivery of the words than usual which actually works very well; the only part that doesn't is when Moss and Aaronow are speaking at the same time as this sounds stagy and awkward.

Director Chris Honer keeps a perfect pace throughout and gets some extremely good performances from his actors. You can smell the desperation of David Fleeshman as Shelly Levene. Paul Barnhill remains cool and measured throughout as John Williamson which maintains his power over the others despite him being attacked from all sides. John McAndrew is loud and obnoxious as Dave Moss, James Quinn as George Aaronow is suitably nervous and uncertain in Moss's presence, Leigh Symonds is spectacularly good at silent listening and nervous insistence as James Lingk and Nick Moss as Baylen is always on the edge of his patience with his arrogantly uncooperative interviewees. However the real tour-de-force performance is from Richard Dormer as Richard Roma, the most arrogant and self-important of the lot while also the most charismatic and perhaps also the most needy for success just to be the winner, not simply to earn a living.

Judith Croft's set recreates a couple of booths in a Chinese restaurant quite authentically, and then it is impressively transformed during the interval into the devastated office that is authentically 1983, except one or two of the notices on the walls would surely have required a computer that wouldn't be seen in an office such as this for at least a decade.

The whole thing is over in 100 minutes including the interval, so the oddity of a longer second act doesn't jar and the constant barrage of very intense dialogue doesn't have time to become wearing. This is pure Mamet showing off his brilliance with language used as weapons in a vicious fight to the death in which no one uses physical violence but there are still serious casualties. Honer's direction referees the match without getting in the way, and the actors' performances of these not particularly likeable characters take the audience through many different feelings towards them form hatred to sympathy. It also happens to have some very funny moments as well.

All-in-all, a production well worth seeing.

Reviewer: David Chadderton