BWW Review: GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS, Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham
The play recently enjoyed a successful run at the Playhouse Theatre in London, directed by Sam Yates (who also directs this UK tour) and featured a star-studded ensemble cast.
Glengarry Glen Ross centres on four real estate agents in New York City who try to sell undesirable properties to vulnerable prospective buyers by any means possible, from flattery to intimidation to the physical act of burglary.
Chiara Stephenson's set design is exquisite. Act One takes place in a Chinese restaurant - the location of three separate conversations between three pairs of characters. It's entirely boxed in with a ceiling, adding to the claustrophobic feel of the material. However, it's a static first half, so was the elaborate set design required for the monologues taking place? I'm not so sure.
Act Two changes location completely, turning into a real estate office the following day after said burglary has taken place. This too is an exceptional visual treat with the chaos reflected in both a mental and physical sense. The material here is a lot more intense, plus Yates has done a superb job of utilising all of the resources available.
Act One is slow and word-heavy, perhaps why it runs at only 35 minutes long. The monologues showcase Mamet's intelligent writing but, in this production, it is too static to grab attention; possibly why some audience members did not return after the interval. However, Act Two is much better, with its almost frenetic pace.
Yates has done a superb job at breaking down these characters and building them up again with the touring cast. The broken sentences and long passages in Mamet's text are delivered with absolute precision.
Nigel Harman channels the confident yet relaxed nature of Ricky Roma, whilst funny guy Mark Benton brings a sense of comedy to Shelly Levene but handles the hard-hitting consequences of his role with both emotion and attack.
Scott Sparrow plays John Williamson, the Office Manager, and needs to be given credit for his often silent role, but also the way he absorbs anger from other characters and emotes his restraint.
There are phenomenal performances here. However, this production is very much a tale of two halves.
Glengarry Glen Ross plays the Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham until 23 February, and continues to tour the UK until May