The salesman is a source of endless fascination for our American cousins. A quasi mythical figure in that most capitalist of capitalist nations, these shiny-suited door-knockers are both revered and maligned, at once the backbone of the nation and the devil’s handyman.
David Mamet’s 34-year-old play still taps wonderfully into this duality of man (and here they are all men), losing none of its razor-sharp edge and wicked humour. His oily anti-heroes are a joy to watch as they endlessly strive for that elusive deal, with each lousy plot of real estate worth as much in adrenaline as it is in cash.
It begins in a bar with three apparently unrelated vignettes: two salesmen shooting the shit after a hard day down the sales mines; Christian Slater’s viperous Richard Roma toying with his latest victim; two jaded old men dreaming of screwing over The Man.
Slater is especially brilliant as Roma, the man of the hour, riding the crest of a lucky streak all the way to the top of the sales board – his exchanges with down-on-his-luck colleague Levene are frequently hilarious.
The second half shifts to a grubby sales room, where the strands expertly threaded in the bar provide enough rope to hang the entire staff. It takes exceptional writing to prevent these characters from being utterly unredeemable, and it’s a joy to see Mamet’s words brought to life with such verve.