Almost twenty-five years after its original run at the National, David Mamet’s masterpiece Glengarry Glenn Ross has returned to the West End with a vengeance. The tale of five estate salesmen willing to lie, cheat, and steal for survival, Glengarry is just as powerful today as it was twenty-five years ago, losing none of its timeliness or brilliance over time.
Glengarry is a personal favourite, and it’s easy to see why: Mamet is all about getting to the point, and there is no filler to pad out or water down the 80 minute (plus interval) piece. The language is sharp and the characters brutal to each other, their clients, and even their office.
Jonathan Pryce leads this revival as Shelley Levine, a salesman in search of his glory days while struggling at the end of his rope. Pryce is phenomenal, bringing out Levine’s weakness and sentimentality in a way that Alan Alda avoided in the 2005 Broadway revival. His enemy, Peter McDonald’s John Williamson, is played with a cool distance and unwavering apathy.
Levine’s other concern is top seller Richard Roma, played here with admirable sleaze by Aidan Gillen. Roma is everything Levine once was - smooth and charismatic, but equally despicable. Rounding out the salesmen are Paul Freeman’s George, a bundle of nerves ready for the chopping block, and Matthew Marsh’s Moss, willing to do anything to save his own neck. Both are excellent actors, though Marsh puts off odd aura of camp, something which would have been his undoing in the show’s cut-throat world and should have been dealt with by director James McDonald. All accents are, fortunately, strong with few wavering moments.
In addition to Mamet’s forceful text and the powerful acting, the characters’ plight is enforced and magnified by Anthony Ward’s pressure cooker sets, a pair of claustrophobic nightmares with low ceilings and little stage depth - there is nowhere in this world for the actors to escape.
Glengarry Glenn Ross is not a happy play, but it is an unforgettably supercharged modern classic. See it before the limited run ends.
Where: Apollo Theatre
When: M-Sa @ 19:45, W/Sa @ 15:00. Until 12 Jan.
How much: £15-£45
Concessions: Seniors (and there were quite a few when the RZ went) can advance book for £25, drama students (or maybe students in general?) can advance book Wednesday matinees through 19 Dec. for £10, otherwise advance book the upper levels for £17.50 or get best available an hour prior for £20.
RZ Unofficial “Worth Paying”: £45. This is one to blow you away.
RZ Other Notes: Well, it won’t blow everybody away, as witnessed by the OAP two seats down from the RZ who fell asleep twice in the first act and left shortly after the beginning of the second. Readers with sensitive ears should be warned that Mamet is a wizard with profanity, and a couple of racial slurs are present. That said, the play itself stings because like Avenue Q, its grounding is in truth. In fact, avoid this show completely if you’re in the market for a house or you’ll be unable to trust anybody.