Saturday, 29 September 2007

Glengarry Glen Ross

Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue
Friday 28 September

The 1992 film version of David Mamet's play Glengarry Glen Ross was the unofficial movie of my student years. The story of Chicago property salesmen struggling to make a living from bad leads is endlessly quotable.

My flatmates and I relished calling each other deadbeats and shitheads and we deployed the film's other lines and expletives at every opportunity. An original poster was stuck to the living room wall. The irony of its tag line, "A Story For Everyone Who Works For A Living", wasn't lost on someone whose presence on campus was required for just eight hours a week.

I've read the play but never seen it staged so this West End revival was always going to be on my hit list.

Jonathan Pryce, who played hen-pecked customer James Lingk in the film, is Shelly Levine (Jack Lemmon in the film), the aging salesman who's losing his touch. Aidan Gillen, Councilman Carcetti in genius cop show The Wire, is the ballsy Ricky Roma (Pacino on screen). The cast's other familiar faces include Paul Freeman (Rene Belloq from Raiders of the Lost Ark).

Act I is set in a Chinese restaurant where Levine tries to bribe his boss, the inexperienced Williamson; Moss, another salesman, suggests robbing their office and jumping ship to another company and Ricky Roma tries to close a deal with the hapless James Lingk.

The second act takes place in the burgled office where all the salesmen must come to terms with what's happened and how it affects them.

Mamet's script means there's so much language to savour and the play is always gripping. But this production lacked punch. Maybe it's because it was only its second performance: Pryce forgot a line in his first scene; Anthony Flanagan as Williamson gave up on his American accent; the scene changes in Act I seemed long.

A play with a small cast that relies on lightening dialogue requires all the actors to be 100% comfortable with each other and into their characters. I'm not sure they are quite there yet. Still, a brilliantly written play, but best wait a few weeks until it hits its stride.

Book tickets for Glengarry Glen Ross


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