The Gronholm Method at the Menier Chocolate Factory review ****

menier_chocolate_factory

The Gronholm Method

Menier Chocolate Factory, 12th May 2018

Curious place the Menier Chocolate Factory. Properly fringe in looks and feel. But programming which is more Bournemouth than Borough. Still it knows its audience and seems to pack ’em in, even with prices that seem a little more confident than some of its more fringe-y fringe theatre peers. And quite a variable output based on the critics and the opinions of one or two of the Tourist’s nearest and dearests. Still sometimes they nail it, especially with their musical revivals if that’s your bag, and their production of Stoppard’s Travesties, now on Broadway, was an absolute triumph.

So the Tourist pays attention to its offerings and saw something in The Gronholm Method which drew him in. Glad I did for it is a very pleasing, humorous, gentle satire on the world on modern employment practice, and specifically, the job interview. It is the most successful work from Spanish playwright Jordi Galceran, and has been performed in over 60 countries since its premieres in Barcelona and Madrid. The translators here are Anne Garcia-Romero and Mark St Germain and the director is BT McNicholl, the production having been imported from off-Broadway.

Frank (Jonathan Cake), Rick (John Gordon Sinclair), Carl (Greg McHugh) and Melanie (Laura Pitt-Pulford) pitch up in a smart office room in New York for an interview for some high-powered sales role. A draw opens with a set of instructions. One of them is an Human Relations ringer and they need to work out who. Further, increasingly bizarre and/or personal instructions, follow. One of them will get the job.

OK so it is a bit of a stilted set-up, which never quite relaxes, but it is the vehicle for some pretty amusing interchanges and some smart observations on the lengths people will go to in the modern, competitive workplace. The twists are not earth-shattering but they come at sufficiently regular intervals to intrigue. The performances are very fine, particularly Jonathan Cake as the viperous egoist Frank and John Gordon Sinclair as bumptious everyman Rick, and together the four players generate enough tension to convince. The direction is slick across the shortish 90 minutes, the set from Tim Hatley is spot on and the accents are convincing to my ear.

You will enjoy watching I am sure, but more for the games it plays, with us the audience, as well as between the actors, but any pretence it might have to offer psychological insight flounders on the rather cardboard cut-out nature of the characters served up. So, I would guess, you will largely forgot the entertainment not long after climbing the stairs out. No matter. Take it for what it is. As I did. Hence 4* not 3*.

If you want real workplace drama, look out for Mike Bartlett’s Bull. That’s so real it hurts.

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