/The Playhouse theatre: Glengarry Glen Ross (2018)

The Playhouse theatre: Glengarry Glen Ross (2018)


I met Christian Slater last night. Let me say that again, ‘I met Christian Slater last night’. It was one of those chance occasions where one minute you’re doing what you usually do (for someone like me that’s going to the theatre) and then, all the sudden, the moment becomes an event – one that you’ll never forget. Yes, I was completely star struck and I have no shame in telling anyone that, why? Guess what? It’s not always about looks. I admit Slater, who is now 48 years old, is still ‘hot’, but given his rip-roaring performance last night, I am convinced he is as great a stage actor as he is a film actor.

The Playhouse theatre is currently showing David Mamet’s 1984 Pulitzer price-winning play Glengarry Glen Ross. It describes the lives of four real estate salesmen in Chicago, hustling hard and shoving their egos at anyone who likes the sound of a juicy deal. Glengarry Glen Ross was transformed into a Hollywood blockbuster in 1992. Al Pacino, Alec Baldwin and Ed Harris were the few to headline the movie. It became one of the most highly-recommended films for sales training.

Christian Slater and Kris Mashall at the Playhouse theatre, (c) Marc-Brenner

Based on a scene with Alec Baldwin talking down to his fellow salesmen, ‘a, b, c… always be closing’ became the singular line to utilise for any sales pitch. Baldwin’s lengthy motivation speech, dripping of misogyny and narcissism, was not written by Mamet. It’s just the part that included those three words, ‘always be closing’.

Be warned: there are buckets of aggressive name-calling and swearing in this office. In director Sam Yates’s production, Slater performs the role of Ricky Roma, a businessman on a mission. He adds a touch of class and charm to Ricky’s outer appearance, yet back in the office, he’s as nasty as the rest of the pack. Robert Glenister is hot-headed Moss. He is always finding an excuse to raise his voice and aimlessly trying to make everyone feel worthless. He is such a loser at the job that he considers stealing the leads from the office and selling them off to a competitor. The sales world can make you stoop so low.

Stanley Townsend’s character Levene is more unassuming. He’s another hopeless peddler trying to survive. On the one hand, he throws cheap shots and uses his daughter as a bargaining chip for a cut of the leads, yet on the other, he tells the office of his sales success story and the audience almost feel pleased for him. Don’t be fooled, though. He’s a real crook.

At the other end of the spectrum is Don Warrington’s Aaronow. He openly accepts his misfortunes in the game, bumbling and crying into his soon-to-be-empty pockets. Lastly, there’s Kris Marshall as Williamson, and a sturdy stab at speaking with an American accent. He’s an obnoxious office manager with zero experience of selling anything, and the first time we see Marshall play a serious character. No cheeky jokes from this one.

The Hollywood blockbuster, 1992
The Hollywood blockbuster, 1992

No doubt, the cast was on excellent form. You get the sense that the environment was toxic. Their characters’ next meal depended on whether they closed a deal or not. Mamet’s script is best experienced in the second half. You get to see them altogether stuck in designer Chiara Stephenson’s ransacked little box, which they call their office.

There’s an intense scene between Slater and Marshall where Ricky verbally annihilates Williamson. This is, what I consider to be, the most crucial point of the play. Marshall has to stand in silence as Slater unleashes the wrath of Ricky’s worst side. Not holding back, Slater lets rip on the gluttony, greed and pride of capitalism’s average salesmen, and it’s not pretty.

Christian Slater and Stanley Townsend at the Playhouse theatre -(c) Marc-Brenner

Some may argue that the first 30 minutes is baffling, but that soon becomes clear in the second half. This section alone, which is the longest part of the two, is worth buying a ticket for. However, allow me to be straight with you, this production isn’t perfect.

Given recent events, regarding a certain Hollywood film producer (guess who?) and multiple sexual allegations made against other male actors, the production feels dated. It would have been edgier and more effective if there were a layer of the present made in the context of Mamet’s boiler room. That way the play could have been more relevant. Seeing a group of super competitive men stuck in a rut, like Ricky, Levene, Moss, Williamson and Aaronow, in a time like now could have been a great starting point for an interesting discussion.

Tickets still available at the Playhouse theatre. Ends February 3rd. Click here to purchase tickets.