Words by: Freya Parr
Image Credit: Daily Review
David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize winning play Glengarry Glen Ross was first produced in 1983, and has been taken up by the Black Swan Theatre Company in a new rendition at the State Theatre.
It tells the story of several real estate salesmen, all desperately trying to make a quick sale in order to better their careers. Ricky Roma (Damian Walshe-Howling) is in the running to be rewarded with a new Cadillac if his sales figures continue to grow. Shelley Levene (Peter Rowsthorne) has been going through a rough patch, and is desperately trying to improve his reputation. Dave Moss (Kenneth Ransom) is a manipulative salesman, who convinces George Arronow (Luke Hewitt) to participate in an illicit scheme to raise a few dollars. John Williamson (Will O’Mahony) leads the ruthless team, managing their disputes and attempting to control the egos of such strong-minded individuals.
Black Swan have done a wonderful job with this production, as they consistently seem to do so. Although they didn’t necessarily bring anything particularly new to the script, they certainly gave a thoroughly entertaining adaptation.
The set was done in the usual impressive Black Swan style, taking full advantage of the Heath Ledger Theatre’s rotating stage floor. It not only moved between two scenes in a Chinese restaurant, where all the initial discussions and deals were had and made, but it also moved to the office of the real estate agency that all the characters worked at. The seamless transition between these locations sped the performance up and kept things interesting. The original script is in two acts, with a break between the scenes taking place at the beginning in the restaurant and the latter part of the play which takes place in the office. Black Swan removed this break and kept the performance moving. Although they carried this out in an effective manner, due to the fast paced nature of the dialogue, the audience could have benefited from a short interval to digest the relentless action onstage.
The costume and set coincided very well; the trends of the era was well and truly adhered to. I was a little surprised at the style of the office however. The intensity of the discussions that were taking place in the restaurant was such that I assumed the characters were part of a more high-class agency, when in reality the office was banal and fairly standard in style.
The speech was incredibly well executed, with none of the snappy dialogue lost. The writing itself was difficult to keep up with, purely because from the very moment the play begins, the speech is unyielding, and a lot of information is given in the first few minutes. There was also a vast amount of expletives used throughout, which sometimes detracted from the overall themes being explored. I realise Mamet was probably attempting to purvey a realistic presentation of the language of such cut throat salesmen, but it sometimes went beyond being merely confronting, and started to lose its power. I don’t think the old dears in the audience were expecting it either – they all looked a little shellshocked.
The only problems with this play I felt lay with the writing itself. It felt inconclusive, and when the performance ended, I didn’t feel as though a lot had been unexplored. However, as always, the Black Swan have given us a fabulous adaptation, and the acting was second to none. The commitment to every part was brilliant, and wholly believable – every member of the cast shone. A thoroughly enjoyable evening all round, with some interesting questions posed about the nature of business and its ideologies.
Glengarry Glen Ross is on at the State Theatre, Perth from 23rd May to 14th June.