Playhouse Theatre, London – until 3 February 2018
Is the Playhouse becoming London’s venue of choice for American stars’ vanity projects? Matthew Perry (Chandler from Friends) chose it last year for his self-written piece The End of Longing, and in 2014 Lindsey Lohan showcased her genuine acting chops in another David Mamet work, Speed-the-Plow.
Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross – not a tartan bonnet in sight, it’s an All-American play set in Chicago in the 80’s – is about ruthless competition between real estate salesmen, paid largely on commission, and ready to cut any throat or corner to come top of the monthly leaderboard.
It’s all about ‘big swinging dicks’ and the biggest and swingingest for sure is Christian Slater’s spot-on Ricky Roma, swaggering with confidence and measuring out charm according to the size of the sale. He’s near-perfect in the part, and as in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, seems to relish being the successful American actor in a London cast of Brits faking the accent.
Most of them roll over and let him have the limelight, although Stanley Townsend as a closer approaching his sell-by date comes nearest to capturing the tenor and pacing of a Mamet script, particularly in a scene where he pleads with Kris Marshall’s wonderfully flattened office manager to give him better clients, and again sublimely when he’s made his first successful sale in some time.
This play often gets compared to Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman – but the fact Miller and Mamet won their Pulitzer prizes 35 years apart shows how universal are their themes of ambition, failure and the long-promised collapse of the American Dream.
First-rate play about second-rate men.