DAVID Mamet’s 1984 Pulitzer prizewinning play Glengarry Glen Ross is on its first UK tour, stopping at Bath Theatre Royal until Saturday 23rd March.
Widely praised for its accurately brutal look at the world of sales in a capitalist society, it is set in Chicago over two desperate days. What you need to remember watching this tense play is that salespeople don’t sell a product. They sell themselves. And if the person they are trying to sign up doesn’t like them – for any reason – the deal will fail.
Act one is set in a Chinese restaurant, where three pairs of men meet, consecutively. Act two moves to the following day in the offices of the real estate company where five of the previous six work.
First off we meet Shelly Levene (Mark Benton), a man who has once been an ace salesman but who has gone to seed. His aura is one of desperation, as he abuses and lectures the office manager, the weasly company man John Williamson (Scott Sparrow).
John holds the key to the success of the salesmen, handing out leads of greater or lesser potential. And he’s organising a sales contest with a Cadillac as the prize. But there’s more than a car on the line. Those who fail risk losing their jobs.
Everyone needs to sell land and property in Florida, by whatever means.
If Shelly looks like a loser, the suave, charming Ricky Roma (Nigel Harman) looks – and is – at the top the chart, and he depends on his former mentor Shelly to bak up the stories that he spontaneously embroiders to persuade his buyers to hand over the money.
Perhaps, after Mad Men, the audience sees Mamet’s play differently. The cut-throat world of sales is something the outsider can only thank God they have never experienced first-hand.
Glengarry Glen Ross, named for the current land for sale and a lot sold previously and lucratively, is famous not only for its language but for the power and speed of its ensemble playing. This new touring cast is splendidly breathtaking as they unravel a world of greed and duplicity.
The ending had many of the Bath audience gasping, and that’s how it should be.