It is fitting that Fortnight Theatre Company (FNT) has moved into new real estate for their production of Glengarry Glen Ross. The first DST company to do so, FNT used City Theatre as the venue for their production of David Mamet’s trenchant tale of lies, deceit, and luxury houses. Indeed, one could not help but be bundled into the heart of the play even upon arriving at City Theatre. Entering such an unassuming building was an experience eerily and appropriately akin to that of a burglary, and one which was only intensified under the accusing glare of Georgie Franklin’s authoritative Baylen, who, despite her diminutive stature and only intermittent stage presence, succeeded in making every single member of the audience an accessory to the break-in of the second act.
As is to be expected with such a low-key venue, there was nothing of the pomp and pageantry of an opening night. This did nothing, however, to detract from the excitement of a palpable nervous energy, which was understandably difficult to shake. I am inclined to think that the quasi-philosophical meditations delivered by Ruari Hutchinson (Roma) towards the end of the first act were written to dispel these nerves, and that’s exactly what they did. Hutchinson was poised, self-assured, commanding, and in control. Although this came at the price of the terrifying idiosyncrasy that is given preference in the text, and which Al Pacino did so well, it was a price worth paying for the sheer force of will with which it was replaced. Jack Usher, by contrast, captured Lingk’s irresolution perfectly, lending such hesitant conviction to the words ‘my wife’ that I continue to find it impossible to comprehend that he is, to the best of my knowledge, unmarried.
It was clear from their time on stage together that Ruari Hutchinson and Yusuf Uğur (Shelley ‘The Machine’ Levene) thoroughly enjoy one another’s company, and this made their performances a delight to watch. The fleeting glances and presumably unscripted smirks that passed between the two only served to add a tangible sincerity to their dialogue. Indeed, when Roma says to Levene “and that shit you were slinging on my guy today was so good […] It was admirable”, one felt that it required no acting at all. It is noteworthy that this sincerity was achieved without the aid of the slick but unsubtle switches in lighting which accompanied moments of particularly high intensity, and which could perhaps have been dispensed with altogether. Whilst every bit as impressive as the lighting, the tech team’s contribution was far more noticeable when it came to sound. The incessant chirping of incongruous East-Asian music behind the life-changing negotiations taking place in the Chinese restaurant, for example, created a perplexing but undeniably enjoyable atmosphere.
This tongue-in-cheek approach to Glengarry was continued in the abundant comic interludes which were interspersed in the performance with such frequency as to become entirely naturalised with its difficult thematic material. Chiefly responsible for the smiles in the audience was Eleanor George (Georgie Aaronow), whose talent for physical comedy was well-exploited. Indeed, the female cast-members seemed to thoroughly outdo their male co-stars in terms of physicality, as Elle Morgan-Williams delivered such an energetic portrayal of Dana Moss that when she stormed off stage for the final time she seemed perfectly capable of dragging the entire room with her.
In putting on a play with such a rich and iconic performance history as Glengarry, director Wesley Milligan has had to grapple with a host of expectations and preconceptions. However, it seems to me that he has managed to produce a play which both utilises the baggage that accompanies the play – Max Lindon bears more than a coincidental resemblance to the boyish Kevin Spacey who also played John Williamson in 1992 – whilst creating something with all the charm and originality that one can only get from a small theatre company. So, if you’ve yet to find for your student house next year, come down to see Glengarry Glen Ross to see what really goes on before you sign on the dotted line.