Review - The Grönholm Method at the Menier Chocolate Factory
There are more twists and turns in Jordi Galceran’s business drama The Grönholm Method than a stock market boom and bust. Four candidates are through to the final stages of a cutthroat interview process for a coveted position at a global company, and face a series of increasingly stressful tasks. But what begins like an Apprentice/Big Brother crossover episode expands into a chaotic psychological test.
The four candidates hail from around the county, each bringing something different to the table. Rick is a chatty, small-town businessman; Carl is a clean-cut pharmaceutical rep; Frank, an overbearing, arrogant director; and Melanie, a banking consultant and the token woman. We don’t learn much about the role they’re fighting for, or who would be best suited for the job, but that’s not for us to decide.
A hole in the wall delivers a series of challenges to the
contestants candidates. Simple challenges at first: they are given ten minutes to uncover which of them is a mole working for the company; decide whether to save a politician, clown, priest or wrestler from a crashing plane. Party games, seemingly for their recruiters’ amusement, but we learn more about these characters. Frank becomes unbearable, piping up with a snide remark at any opportunity to assert his dominance amongst the pack, while happy-go-lucky Rick reveals darker sides to his personal life.
As the games continue, HR up the ante to create tense, stressful situations for the competitors. The play takes the viewer through the philosophical dilemmas of being a ruthless recruiter, but in doing so the play reveals its age. There would be no question in a world of equal opportunities that a company discriminating against a prospective employee going through reassignment, or one suffering from depression, would have no place in modern business. But 15 years ago, when this play was written, that might have been the case.
None of these characters are particularly likeable, which is a credit to the cast. Jonathan Cake in particular gives Frank a rancid quality, while Laura Pitt-Pulford ensures Melanie isn’t undermined by being the only female candidate - although she does predictably end up in tears.
The walls of Tim Hartley’s plush conference room set seem to close in as the lights dim into the evening, and leaves a lot for the characters to play with, as they twitch nervously under BT Nicholls’ direction.
Once we have a winner, the truth behind the method is revealed, then turned on its head again, before the final line throws everything up in the air one final time. A relatively compelling play that throws up a few moments of contemplation for the audience, but the nitty-gritty of this play is left feeling like old money.
Photo courtesy Manuel Harlan