Theatre: A witty and well-cast assault on capitalism

Don Warrington plays George Aaronow in David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross

Times are hard and four Chicago salesmen in real estate are fighting to keep their jobs. Glengarry Glen Ross is David Mamet’s best play and as damning an indictment of capitalism as Arthur Miller’s The Death of a Salesman. The major pleasure at The Playhouse is listening to the way Mamet manipulates the language. He has a good ear for the way salesmen/conmen talk and can wittily parody the full range of their limited and expletive-ridden vocabulary, and their ability to be articulate and inarticulate at one and the same time. Christian Slater heads a strong cast.

The refugee crisis and mass migration make Aeschylus’s epic tragedy The Suppliant Women, first performed 2,480 years ago, very topical. The women are 50 virgins who have fled from Egypt to Argos to avoid marrying their cousins. The king asked his citizens to vote on whether to give them asylum. The Greeks not only invented theatre, but democracy too!

Adapted by David Greig and directed by Ramin Gray, the play is set to haunting and dynamic music by John Brown. This feminist tract, more of a ritual than a play, is primarily a choral piece and the chorus is the leading character. The exhilarating touring co-production between Actors Touring Theatre Company and Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum was created to be performed by a chorus drawn from the community in the cities in which the production is performed. The young women are amazing, vocally and physically. There is tremendous energy on stage and the exciting choreography is by Sasha Milavic Davies.

At Jermyn Street Theatre, Tom Littler directs a first-rate cast in Howard Brenton’s adaptation of Strindberg’s once notorious masterpiece Miss Julie, which was initially banned in 1888 for its immorality. Aristocratic Miss Julie (Charlotte Hamblin) recklessly throws herself at her father’s valet (James Sheldon) on Midsummer’s Eve, and they are both humiliated. Ninety minutes of concentrated class hatred and lust still carry a terrific dramatic punch.

Shakespeare’s Coriolanus has never been an easy play to perform on stage and generally works best at times of national strife when left and right find they can use its political arguments for their own ends. The crowd scenes are the high spots in Angus Jackson’s well below-par modern dress production for the RSC at the Barbican. Sope Dirisu is not always at ease with Coriolanus’s challenging rhetoric.

Patrick Marber’s The Red Lion at Trafalgar Studios will have a special appeal for football fans. The beautiful game is no longer as beautiful as it once was. Football and corruption go hand in hand when two mentors fight for a boy’s soul. Stephen Tompkinson, John Bowler and Dean Bone are at the top of their game. The Northern vernacular gives the dialogue not only its grit and realism but also its poetry and lyricism.

Can there be anything worse for parents than the death of a young child? Dutch playwright Lot Vekemans, in Poison at Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond, writes about the grief, pain and inability to share feelings suffered by those closest to the tragedy. Ten years on, the grief still poisons these particular parents’ relationship. The acting of Clare Price and Zubin Varla is faultless. The director is Paul Miller.