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Glengarry Glen Ross (Oxford - O'Reilly Theatre)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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David Mamet's play is very much a creature of the 1980s - the era of that brought us Wall Street and Martin Amis' Money - the obsession with wealth and the fear of failure is at the heart of Glengarry Glen Ross. In many ways it is a wise choice for a student company to select - a small cast, limited set requirements and a tight running time.

From a design point of view, Anna Lewis does an excellent job - particularly with the office setting for the second act - the attention to detail was spot on. The first act setting of a Chinese restaurant was slightly less successful - it needs a few additional props to really evoke such a familiar space. However it is still a well conceived and well executed design.

Director Jamie MacDonagh does a strong job of bringing the text to life. Again attention to detail is the key to his success - particularly in the shifting focus in the second act. He gives his actors the space to create their own characters and has clearly encouraged them to produce some very precise physicalities that match the text to very good effect. I did find his staging of the first act rather too static. It is tricky when confronted with 3 duologues with the characters sat at tables but by leaving them in their chairs throughout meant that things quickly lose visual impact and whilst the words carry things well, I feel the actors would have had greater power if they had been encouraged to use the space a little more. This is a minor quibble with what, by any standards, is a very assured piece of student direction.

The stand-out performance comes from Will Hatcher as Richard Roma - he brings a quiet intensity to the role that contrasts well with some of the showier characters on stage. Jordan Waller shows considerable promise with a bold portrayal of the flash salesman Moss. There isn't a weak link in the cast and, on the whole, the accents are consistent and well differentiated.

I must admit that I am slightly shocked that the racist language has been retained for the production. Mamet himself adjusted the text for the recent US revival and I can understand why. Although it is a period piece, hearing such racist attitudes today makes me feel rather uncomfortable. When the original author has decided to alter the dialogue, I think directors should take this into account.

All in all, I found this a strong piece of student theatre - well directed, well acted and well designed. I would not be surprised to see a number of those involved making the transition to the professional world once the demands of their degrees are at an end.

The production runs to 28th May.


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