Review: Glengarry Glen Ross

096 Peter Rowsthorn, Damian Walshe-Howling. Glengarry Glen Ross. Image by Gary Marsh Photography

David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play about the cutthroat world of real estate has found it’s way to the Heath Ledger Theatre courtesy of Black Swan State Theatre Company.

‘Glengarry Glen Ross’ tells the tale of a group of real estate salesmen at the risk of losing their jobs if they fail to make enough sales. Smooth-talking Ricky Roma (Damian Walshe-Howling) is at the top of the sales board and on his way to being rewarded with a brand new Cadillac, but his success hangs in the balance of one more sale. Shelley Levene (Peter Rowsthorne) has fallen on hard times and is desperate to claw his way back to the top. Dave Moss (Kenneth Ransom) is a manipulative bigmouth whose scheming could be the downfall of the hapless George Arronow (Luke Hewitt). Meanwhile, John Williamson (Will O’Mahony) runs the office with an iron fist, aware that his management of the prime sales leads gives him a great deal of control over the fortunes of these audacious men.

The play is arguably Mamet’s most iconic work, and anyone familiar with the play or its screen adaptation of the same name will be aware of its snappy dialogue peppered with swearing and often bordering on verbal abuse. The richness of the language brought forth characters that are fighting for their livelihoods makes ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’ an actor’s dream, and the ensemble took to the script with fervour. Some may not think of a play whose climactic speech involves several thoroughly articulate and creative uses of the word c**t as terribly poetic (a couple of older ladies I overheard in the bathroom after the show certainly didn’t seem to think so), but anyone who appreciates dialogue that is direct, realistic and wholly representative of its native time and place and can handle some foul language will find much to enjoy.

While it the pace and energy of the piece took the first couple of scenes to pick up, once it did, it was a roller coaster ride of gleeful manipulation, bravado and rage, as it very well should be. It is clear from Damian Walshe-Howling’s enthusiasm and precision that this is the role he’s been waiting for, and he takes to it like a duck to water. Peter Rowsthorn is appropriately desperate, downtrodden, and at times triumphant following the swiftly moving fate of Shelley Levene, who is not quite the salesman he once was.

Will O’Mahony as the authorative and no-nonsense Williamson provides an able antagonist for the other characters to bounce off. Ben Mortley as Detective Baylen and Steve Turner as James Lingk bring clear intentions to their comparatively smaller roles and round out the piece well. Richard Roberts’ set and costume design is faithful to the time period and provides a clear picture of each character’s status.

Black Swan State Theatre Company’s ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’ is a faithful to the iconic script, and brings it to life with a high standard of performance and design. For those familiar with the Mamet’s work, this production may not necessarily shed a different light on the story or offer a new take on the play, but it is an enjoyable and engaging production.

Sophie Joske

Image: Gary Marsh Photography

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