David Mamet's blistering, turbo-charged burst of testosterone Glengarry Glen Ross always has to walk a tightrope between its sweary machismo and the sweaty exposure of the vulnerabilities beneath its characters' bluster. There are occasions when the tightly-wound tensions in this new, starry West End production slacken, but this is still a lean, mean rollercoaster peek behind the scenes of a set of real-estate salesman chasing the best leads and trying to close deals with their sometimes reluctant prey.
It's a play that pulses with linguistic pleasure as the playwright captures the violence and poetry of their language. And while you are sometimes too aware of the acting going on in Sam Yates's atmospheric production, the cast are clearly relishing it.
Originally premiered at London's National Theatre in 1983 ahead of its Broadway premiere a year later in a different production, and subsequently a 1992 film that starred Al Pacino and Jack Lemmon and also featured Jonathan Pryce, Alec Baldwin, Ed Harris and Kevin Spacey, it’s actually an ensemble play. Everyone has a moment in the spotlight; a lot of the play consists of scenes between just two characters.
Yates's production is cast in strength to include stage stalwarts like the great Don Warrington and Stanley Townsend, two of our very best actors, as well as Robert Glenister and Daniel Ryan whose work I also consistently love. But there's also star casting, too, with Christian Slater returning to the London stage (after previous appearances in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Swimming with Sharks) to play the role of Ricky Roma, the alpha-male top dog of the salesmen, and popular TV actor Kris Marshall as John Williamson, at the surly boss of the office.
There's plenty of pleasure in watching their finely orchestrated manoeuvres as they move between the Chinese restaurant of the first act to the cluttered office of the second in Chiara Stephenson's impressive design.
What the press said...
"[Mamet's play] dramatises the world of work and exposes the fallibility of a bullshitting patriarchy in which men talk big to disguise their panic and fear." - Michael Billington, The Guardian (four stars)
"Once the production introduces us to Christian Slater as Roma, the production moves up a gear in terms of crackling authenticity." - Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph (three stars)
Glengarry Glen Ross is at the Playhouse Theatre until 3rd February 2018.
Glengarry Glen Ross Tickets are available now.