The Grönholm Method
Menier Chocolate Factory
Reviewed – 23rd May 2018
“The piece twists and turns in a wonderfully layered structure of discovery”
Four people are waiting. These four people are interviewees. They have been told to expect a group interview but the ensuing ninety minutes is far more surprising and gruelling than any might’ve expected. Envelopes appear periodically in a drawer delivering them tasks to complete: they must decide which of them is not a real candidate but a member of HR, whether the company ought to hire someone undergoing gender reassignment, whether unstable mental health and extra marital affairs affect a person’s working ability, and so on. Inspired by actual procedures in HR departments, Jordi Galceran’s play, which premiered in Barcelona in 2003, is reset in a New York office by director BT McNicholl.
As the characters desperately try to puzzle their way through task after task, the audience are equally drawn in, as in the dark as the candidates themselves. The piece twists and turns in a wonderfully layered structure of discovery. It is impossible not to be drawn in, but the draw is surface level. This is not a nice world, and the people in it reflect that. Even at their most sympathetic it is hard to truly feel any empathy for them, and every breakdown is suspect in a play that refuses to stop surprising us. The piece is more thriller than drama, and there is little in which to emotionally invest or engage.
The cast of four is consistently strong. Jonathan Cake’s brutal Frank Porter is harsh, calculating and desperate, abhorrent at points, oddly likeable at others, albeit purely for his tenacity. Greg McHugh is softer but just as committed, the Harvard graduate who is revealed to be a trans woman, though the other characters’ universally transphobic responses perhaps show the play’s age for the first time. Laura Pitt-Pulford is Melanie Douglas – “Three men and a woman, as always,” she comments on arrival – determined to the point of ruthlessness, juggling the demands of work and life with a pragmatic coldness. John Gordon Sinclair’s Rick is a much needed contrast to his counterparts, bright and funny, always on hand with traffic-based small talk and tic tacs.
Tim Hatley’s design is beautifully detailed and fantastically well executed. A plush corporate conference room with white leather chairs, wooden panelling across the walls and an excessive amount of glass. The floor to ceiling windows at the back of the stage reveal the New York skyline, gradually darkening as the play goes on (lighting design by Howard Harrison).
BT McNicholl’s production is slick and well executed, an insight into an ugly world where brutality is rewarded and humanity stamped out, supported by four consistently strong performances.
Reviewed by Amelia Brown
Photography by Manuel Harlan
The Grönholm Method
Menier Chocolate Factory until 7th July