Menier Chocolate Factory Spring-Summer 2018
This is a who's-doing-what-to-who puzzle play that may be a little too clever, and pleased with its own cleverness, for its own good. But it will keep surprising you and will keep you guessing to the end, and that can be a lot of fun.
Catalan playwright Jordi Galceran calls his play (here in an Americanised version assembled by director BT McNichell from separate translations by Anne Garcia-Romero and Mark St. Germain) a comedy but it is really a blend of dark satire and psychological drama, with only the occasional passing laugh.
Four candidates for a top corporate job are assembled, not for one last interview as they imagine, but for a series of tests (the 'method' in the title).
They're told that one of them is not an authentic candidate and challenged to find the ringer. They're given damaging information about one, to see who rallies around him and who tries to use it for his own advantage.
And so on, each test revealing things about the candidates while also raising questions about the prospective employer – what exactly is being tested, or are they just playing with the candidates for their own sadistic entertainment?
It is much to the credit of director McNichell and his cast that the reality and tension are sustained through the unbroken 90 minutes of the play, and that the characterisations are rounded enough to absorb each new revelation believably.
Jonathan Cake is the hard-nosed cynical alpha male inclined to bulldoze his way through every obstacle, while Laura Pitt-Pulford has the successful businesswoman's full armour and street-fighter instincts.
John Gordon Sinclair is the slower-thinking older guy seemingly out of his depth, and Greg McHugh the amiable nice guy and peacekeeper.
(I hasten to remind you that every one of those characterisations is subject to change in the course of the play, and to salute the actors for navigating the revelations and alterations successfully.)
If it doesn't eventually start to annoy you with its constant reversals and self-satisfied cleverness – and it came perilously close to that edge with me – The Gronholm Method offers all the fun of trying to keep up with a play that is always a step ahead of you.
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Review - The Gronholm Method - Menier Chocolate Factory Theatre 2018