Sharp, witty, unrelentlessly fast paced. Just some of the words I could use to describe the Mermaids performance of Glengarry Glen Ross at the Byre Theatre. From Shelley “The Machine” Levene's first outbreak of a saliva spitting speech to George Aaronow’s miserable quip “I hate this job”, the cast grasped Mamet’s dynamic characters and language and produced a show of quality and confidence. Glengarry Glen Ross, for those who haven’t seen it, details the struggles of salesmen who will use any tactics to make a sale, including robbing their own office and playing the “every man for themselves” card. Having never seen the film myself, I was ignorant to any prejudices of how the characters should be played, but one of the first things that struck me was the dynamic relationships between the characters and how the cast (and director) managed to portray these perfectly.
The separate pairings that emerge in the first act between Shelley and office manager, John Williamson; Dave Moss and Aaronow; and Ricky Roma and James Lingk are thrown together in the chaos of the subsequent robbery in Act Two, causing comedy to pour out of each and every relationship. A favourite sequence of mine was the double-act combination of Shelley and Ricky (Lorenzo de Boni and Conor McKeown, who, it has to be said, stole the show), attempting to control, confuse and commit James into keeping his end of the deal. This sequence, for me, showed just how brilliant a sketch can be when the chemistry is there. The performance not only showcased the talents of the actors but the whole production team, culminating in a tight, sleek performance.
Speaking to director Jasper Lauderdale and producer Harriet Harper-Jones post-performance, I asked them a few questions the production.
First of all, congratulations on the performance, what a brilliant show. What made you choose this Mamet play to perform?
Jasper: I had always wanted to direct this play but knew that I needed a really strong cast to really pull it off. Having directed a Mamet play before, I love his language and speech, the hesitations he uses in his dialogue. I knew I had to do the show to the best of my ability and that meant having the best cast available. I was lucky to get seven incredible actors and since this is my last “On the Rocks”, I figured this was one to push the boat out and go all out. We were lucky to get the best cast we possibly could have.
That was definitely one of the things that struck me about the play was how strong the actors had to be. Was that difficult in terms of characterisation?
We did a lot of work, earlier on, with just character’s, before we even started the script. The characters are very distinct, almost caricature, something you find a lot with Mamet’s work. It’s almost as if someone shouldn’t speak how the dialogue is written but someone, somewhere must do. That is what I admire about his work; the ellipses, the pauses, all help to create these fantastically interesting characters.
In terms of staging, was there a conscious effort to create areal difference between the first and second act?
We wanted there to be a contrast in the acts, so that’s why we began with the intimate staging and lightening for Act One and then completely opened the stage up, choosing to not use the blacks, and have the stage bare and open. This was a move which we worried about, feeling that this might result in the actor’s not being heard as clearly, but it was a compromise I was willing to take.
Images sourced from Harriet Harper-Jones. Compiled by Nicole Horgan.