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A CurtainUp London Review
Glengarry Glen Ross
The very first scene has the mellifluous, deep register of Stanley Townsend as Shelly Levene negotiating with the real estate company district manager, a non salesperson, John Williamson (Kris Marshall) for better leads that he has had of late. The best leads are crucial to success if you are not flogging a dead horse by selling to those who will never complete the deal or sign up. Although Williamson isn't a salesperson, he knows how to wring a good deal by upping his own commission as he effectively charges for the leads he has control over. Shelly is getting older and although he is less sharp and less successful, he feels that given the right leads he could still make it. "I need the leads. I need them now!" he intones. The prizes for the top performing salesman are a new Cadillac or an exotic holiday nut for Shelly it is merely survival not to be sacked as the least efficient salesman.
Scene 2: Also in the Chinese restaurant hung with red lanterns and gold tassels, Robert Glenister as Dave Moss is encouraging bottom performing salesman George Aaronow (Don Warrington) as to how to improve his chances of staying in employment with an illegal act. Moss's conversation is full of racism as he denigrates the Polish American community. These salesmen sail pretty close to the wind in terms of legality as we shall see later on when James Lingk attempts to cancel his contract at his wife's instigation, within the permissable three day limit.
In Scene 3, we see the very successful, fast talking Ricky Roma (Slater) displaying his massive ego as he talks client James Lingk into signing the deal. Roma is not a man you can say "No" to as he knows every trick in the book to convince you what a fabulous deal you are getting. Slater's patter interweaves flattery and confusion using his intellect to con the slower man.
After an interval, we return to the office and find it has been burgled with the leads stolen and a policeman is interviewing the staff. Chiara Stephenson's impressive set has old fashioned metal filing cabinets, their contents strewn around the room and desks crammed with papers and files, many of which are on the floor. We have out own idea as to who might have been responsible but it certainly isn't high performer Ricky Roma. When James Lingk arrives to get his cheque back and cancel, Roma's ruse is to pretend that Shelly is a very high up executive with American Express, a vice president no less, who is buying masses of this same real estate. Roma says he has to dash off to the airport with the VP and guess what? He won't be back until after the three day cancellation deadline.
There are surprises to come in this beautifully performed, richly vocabulary laden play with all except Williamson, Aaronow, Lingk and the policeman talking nineteen to the dozen. I empathised with Stanley Townsend as Shelly. He was the salesman I cared about and his performance is tremendously sympathetic. In this play Christian Slater shines brightly as a movie star who can genuinely play the stage drama and I greatly appreciated Robert Glenister's unscrupulous, wide boy performance. Glenister is a joy to watch inveigling and squirming as he tries all the tricks of persuasion. If we gave star ratings, Glengarry Glen Ross would be 5 stars for the tip top performances and great direction from Sam Yates as well as exposing the dubious morality of these commission driven salesmen in a play which doesn't show its age
After opening, very sadly, Robert Glenister was taken ill and may be replaced by an understudy.
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Glengarry Glen Ross
By David Mamet
Directed by Sam Yates
Starring: Christian Slater, Stanley Townsend, Robert Glenister, Don Warrington, Kris Marshall, Daniel Ryan, Oliver Ryan
Design: Chiara Stephenson
Lighting Design: Richard Howell
Running time: One hour 45 minutes with an interval
Box Office: 0844 871 7631
Booking to 3rd February 2018
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 9th November 2017 performance at the Playhouse Theatre, Northumberland Avenue, London WC2N 5HE (Tube: Embankment)
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