Written by David Mamet
Directed by Stewart McDonald
Thursday 5th April 2012
Originally written in 1983 and set in Chicago, Mamet’s play focuses
on an unpleasant group of ruthless salesmen (read: conmen) in competition
with each other to close deals in order to win a prize. First place gets
a Cadillac, second a set of steak knives and third they’re fired.
Essentially they’re in competition to keep their jobs but it all
depends on who gets the ‘good leads’ and unfortunately these
only go to the closers.
In the first scene we witness conversations in a Chinese restaurant.
Shelley ‘The Machine’ Levene was once a great salesman but
is on a losing streak. He just needs a good lead to come back on top and
so strikes a deal with John Williamson, the office’s ‘secretary’
and the man in charge of the leads. Next, their two colleagues are discussing
robbing the office. Finally, Ricky Roma uses his charming tactics on another
unsuspecting ‘client’ in order to close a deal. They are all
schemers, not simply scamming people but trying to outdo each other in
It should be difficult to feel sympathy for the characters – they
earn their living cheating people out of their money – but by the
end of the performance it’s even more unpleasant when you come to
realise that this is simply the world of capitalism, it’s kill or
be killed. Mike Sanders’ portrayal of Ricky Roma comes across as
charming and likeable despite his ruthless ambition, at one point he encourages
Levene to talk about his sale and you get a sense that there is genuine
admiration there. And Darren Jones puts on a worthy performance as Levene;
we genuinely feel sympathy for him as it becomes apparent that, in a world
driven by capitalism, without his job he has (is?) nothing.
Although the accents were faltering at first I put this down to first
night jitters and it certainly didn’t detract from the ultimate
effect of Mamet’s use of language. Mamet is driven by highly stylised
dialogue as apposed to stage direction and The Lantern is a perfect venue
for this play. Its small size means there is no space left redundant by
a play which has very little in the way of physical movement. It also
adds to the oppressive sensation of the anger and frustration felt by
the characters. All in all it was an excellent performance.