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Menier Chocolate Factory Theatre

In high school, a friend of mine had a job interview during which she called her potential supervisor “Dad.” Then panic-giggled when the interviewers asked what attracted her to the company. Then realized as she exited the room that her skirt was on backwards. And that interview still wasn’t as bad as the interrogation portrayed in B.T. McNicholl’s production of Jordi Galceran’s The Grönholm Method, a play about corporate manipulation and personal desperation that impresses with its cleverness, but ultimately fails to connect emotionally.

When the lights go up, Frank Porter (Jonathan Cake), a sale director at a pharmaceutical company, awaits a job interview in a high-rise conference room. He’s soon joined by overly friendly New Jerseyite Rick Foster (John Gordon Sinclair), as well as college friends Carl Gardner (Greg McHugh) and Melanie Douglas (Laura Pitt-Pulford). The twist? They’re all candidates, and they’ll be participating in a group interview for a coveted position in Burnham & Burnham, a company with a highly unusual approach to vetting possible employees. What follows is a series of ever stranger challenges and scenarios in what often resembles a locked room mystery. One of the candidates may or may not be who he or she claims; the claustrophobia and paranoia of a traditional English country house caper is transposed to contemporary corporate America with pleasing, if not transcendent, results.

Tim Hatley’s set design effectively evokes the expensive blandness of upmarket office space, right down to the bottled water and finicky snacks. The costumes are likewise on point. Consultant Melanie wears a sleek pantsuit, while everyman Rick thrusts his hands into the pockets of over-sized, unfashionable trousers. Pitt-Pulford is convincing as an ambitious woman trying not to drown in a sea of men. Jonathan Cake gives his all to an unlikeable character, and the tight pacing keeps the action barrelling forward. Nonetheless, while the script endeavours to investigate the boundary between our private and professional lives, and the point at which assessment becomes abuse, it often trips over its own cleverness. Cynic Frank gets the best lines—“Buddy, stop thinking so hard,” he tells Rick, “You’re clearly not used to it”—but his misanthropy is overblown, and his humour tips too far into cruelty. More important, a play reliant on characters’ suspicion of one another, as well as revelations of secret identities, to generate tension and excitement quickly makes everyone feel like a fake.

Fool me once? Shame on you. Fool me twice? Shame on me, and shame for an audience member who cared about a character who proved to be a sham. It turns out, it’s not just the interviewees that The Grönholm Method manipulates.

  • Comedy
  • By Jordi Galceran
  • Directed by B.T. McNicholl
  • Cast Includes: Jonathan Cake, John Gordon Sinclair, Greg McHugh, Laura Pitt-Pulford
  • Menier Chocolate Factory Theatre
  • Until 7 July 2018
  • Time: 20:00 Tues-Sat; Matinee: 15:30 Sat. & Sun.

About The Author

Reviewer (UK)

Sarah Gibbs is a Canadian graduate student pursuing a PhD in English Literature at University College London (UCL). Her writing has appeared in Descant, Filling Station, and Novelty magazines.

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