As far as I can remember, Jasper Lauderdale’s production of Speed-the-Plow, which played roughly this time last year, remains the only student production that I have actually rated 5/5 in my three years of reviewing for The Tribe. And so when it turned out Lauderdale was this year directing another great Mamet play, Glengarry Glen Ross, which also starred Lorenzo de Boni and Conor McKeown, I was incredibly excited – and also had very high expectations.
Lauderdale got a far better venue this time round in the Byre Theatre, and he used just about every inch of space available, opening up the wings and the upstage dock to be part of the recently-robbed real estate office, so that the Byre’s own clutter simply added to the dishevelled mess. The first act, however, was far more contained and controlled within the confines of a Chinese restaurant (a restaurant in which only de Boni seems to do any actual eating). In this act, three scenes follow one after another, each with a different one-on-one encounter which starkly separates the strong from the weak. The characters really have a chance to shine and establish their characters in these scenes, and each actor took on and developed his character wonderfully, from the slick, manipulative Roma (McKeown), to the robotic, unimpressed Williamson (Alex Levine), to the awkward, unassuming James Lingk (Sebastian Carrington-Howell). Playing the three biggest personalities of the play, McKeown (Roma), de Boni (Levene) and Frazer Hadfield (Moss) stole the spotlight in these scenes, and the explosion that occurred as soon as all three were in the same room in the second act was intense. Alex Levine and Stephen Kelly, as the quieter Williamson and Aaronow, could, at times, have projected their voices with slightly more power – Kelly was certainly capable of it, as he proved by his sudden and uncharacteristically strident demand for coffee in the second act.
These six male actors – along with Clare Sheehan in drag as the detective Baylen – were all, despite my small pieces of criticism, strong actors. In plays as intense as Mamet’s, there is no space for weak links: the play is tightly compacted, bursting at the seams with testosterone. As with most of Mamet, the talk is everything, and the cast talked themselves into another successful St Andrews Mamet production.
Image credits – Harriet Harper-Jones