Theatre Review: GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS – Opera House, Manchester

Mark Benton and Nigel Harman in GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS

GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS is an acute, revealing piece but Sam Yates’ touring production doesn’t quite close the deal as successfully as it should

3 out of 5 stars

It’s fair to say that the salesman has become almost an archetypal figure in America, embodying the American dream and taking a central role in works of art and literature such as in Arthur Miller’s DEATH OF A SALESMAN. The same can be said for David Mamet’s 1983 play GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS, which sees four cut-throat real estate agents fighting for survival in a high-stakes sales competition.

Set in Chicago in the early 1980s, GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS follows a group of real estate salesmen who are desperate to sell anything – legal or otherwise – to unwitting prospective buyers. The mantra is simple: close the deal and you’ve won a Cadillac; blow the lead and you’re fired.

On paper, there is plenty to like about GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS. Mamet’s script has won every major dramatic award on Broadway and in the West End, including the 1983 Olivier Award for Best Play and the 1984 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Director Sam Yates has also put together a decent cast for this touring production including Mark Benton and Nigel Harman. Shame then that this darkly comic play ultimately fails to live up to expectation.


The biggest issue with this production of GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS is the pacing. Despite only being one hour 45 minutes long (including the interval), the first act feels slow and word-heavy, with Yates building up the tension quickly only to maintain it there for far too long. The opening scenes succeed in grabbing the audience’s attention but begin to weaken as the narrative takes its time setting up.

Even the second act, which moves at a much quicker pace and is much stronger, doesn’t always fire on all cylinders. Here, Mamet’s quickfire words feel laboured, occasionally coming across as shouty rather than poetic, and the true intensity of the script feels lost amongst all the action.

That said, the cast put in relatively decent performances with Nigel Harman suitably smooth as ruthless salesman Ricky Roma and funny guy Mark Benton bringing a sense of comedy to Shelly ‘The Machine’ Levine. There’s also a nice turn from Denis Conway who delivers a nuanced performance as the blustery Moss, as well as Wil Johnson as the convincingly hapless George.

Mark Benton and Scott Sparrow in GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS

Chiara Stephenson’s set is also a marvel, taking us from a claustrophobic Chinese restaurant to an impeccably detailed 1980s office which seemingly reeks of stale smoke and sweaty bodies.

Don’t get me wrong, GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS is an acute, revealing piece which is devastating in the way it depicts the cutthroat economic system of capitalism. The problem is that this touring production doesn’t quite close the deal as successfully as it should.

GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS runs at the Opera House, Manchester until 30 March 2019