Glengarry Glen Ross – Milton Keynes Theatre

Writer: David Mamet

Director: Sam Yates

Reviewer: Maggie Constable

Be warned! If you are heading to Milton Keynes Theatre this week, you may feel you are being inveigled into buying some very dodgy property such as Glen Ross Farm. On the other hand, it could just be that you are watching four U.S purveyors of real estate compete with each other in a last-ditch bid to be the most successful. The best two will keep their jobs and maybe win a Cadillac. In David Mamet’s award-winning play, Glengarry Glen Ross, we find four macho chancers who will go to any length to sell property and land, often covering desperation with pure bravado. Although this tense play was written in 1983, what it shows us about the cut-throat world of land deals is still very pertinent.

Mark Benton brings us Shelly ‘The Machine Levene’ and does so with the perfect blend of loud, foul-mouthed aggression and sad, pleading manipulation in a bid to get the best leads from the office manager, Williamson. We get glimpses of the salesman he once was mixed with his anxiety about his sick daughter and his worry that he has lost his ability to close a deal. At times a very poignant performance, all the more marked when Levene thinks he has scored a sale.

Nigel Harman, as Ricky Roma the top man, is nicely cool, if not a tad understated, as he smooth-talks and cons his client. However, in the second act, Harman really shows us the devious, vile and ruthless wheeler-dealer that lurks beneath the surface. His bouts of temper are very convincing, betraying his need to win at all costs.

Denis Conway’s performance in the role of cunning Dave Moss is utterly believable and adds some real humour to the piece. His angry outbursts are truly scary. Wil Johnson’s under-confident and nervy George Aaronow is an excellent foil to the other characters. As office chief, Williamson, Scott Sparrow shows us yet another character who is not quite what he seems. He may appear at first to play things by the book but he is as prepared as the rest to bend the rules for his own gain. He is just much quieter about it. A clever portrayal in which facial expressions and what is not said reveal the man.

Mamet’s dialogue is as fast and sharp as an arrow and the tension is built up superbly, aided by Sam Yates’ pacy direction. Chiara Stephenson’s set design, giving us the shift from Chinese restaurant to trashy and trashed office is amazing. The detail in the latter is remarkable, adding greatly to the overall effect. It is a character in itself.

We cannot fail to feel the impact of this piece. It gives us plenty upon which to reflect.

Runs Until 6 April 2019 and on tour  | Image: Marc Brenner

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The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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