Firstly, let me warn you, if you have an aversion to swearing, take some time to prepare yourself before seeing Glengarry Glen Ross: there are F-bombs abundant.

Published in 1984, David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross shows the lives of a group of realtors. We are introduced to them in Act One, through a series of monologues and duologues set in what is seemingly a Chinese restaurant, before following them – in real time – during a stressful day after their office has been burgled.

It is a call back to the glory days of the American salesman; the silver-tongued, smooth-talkers who could have received trophies for convincing people to spend inordinate amounts of money on things they never even knew existed…and then found some poor soul to sell the trophy on to as well. If you’re not familiar with that kind of character, think the salesmen on Channel 4’s PhoneShop.

The environment is just as competitive as one would expect; we open on an exchange between Stanley Townsend, as Shelly Levene – a seasoned seller who seems to have lost his touch – and Kris Marshall’s John Williamson – the office manager (aka fall guy). Shelley is intent on proving he’s still got it, despite his current inability to close sales and “stay on the board” – a physical blackboard listing what each seller in the company is bringing in. In spite of his efforts to mask it, Shelly’s desperation is obvious as he plies Williamson with money for better leads.

On the opposite end to Shelly, is Ricky Roma, played delightfully smugly by Christian Slater. His cup of confidence and self-assuredness runneth over as he subtly lures a complete stranger into a deal worth $6000 and a bonus of a new Cadillac.

In the disgruntled middle are Dave Moss and George Aaronow, played by Robert Glenister and Don Warrington respectively.

The first act is thankfully relatively short. The monologues and duologues are well performed, but they do begin to drag on. The second act, for me, is when the show takes flight. The commitment to scenography is fantastic: the restaurant decorated with red lanterns, velvet booths, and a bar stocked with refreshments, is replaced by the open plan office of the company, complete with Williamson’s private closed-off office and windows looking out into the hallway. Chiara Stephenson’s set design, combined with Richard Howell’s lighting design, is so on point and it made the scenographer inside me jump with joy.

Seeing the salesmen interact with each other in the wake of the robbery brings the movement that we don’t get in the first act to the stage, and with that movement comes a whole different kind of energy. There’s a lot more back and forth now that more characters are onstage at once and the atmosphere is generously injected with your typical male office banter.

This show is so well-cast: every person on that stage embodies their character flawlessly. Warrington is adorably fragile as Aaronow, while Glenister’s Moss is cantankerously unhappy with his job and makes no effort to hide it. Marshall, though by far the tallest and most physically commanding of the cast, ensures that his portrayal of Williamson clearly communicates his low rank in the pecking order of the office. Daniel Ryan’s performance as the fidgety, nervous and *cough cough* whipped, husband is full of such delicious uncertainty; and Oliver Ryan gets tasked with the job of being the-guy-no-one-likes in his role as Baylen, the investigating police officer – who seems just as useless as everyone says he is, bless his heart.

Yet, the show belongs to Townsend and Slater. The on-stage relationship between Shelly and Ricky has some great mentor-mentee connotations and Townsend and Slater are intensely watchable as their energies bounce off each other – there is a great part of Act Two where Ricky and Shelly attempt to dupe one of Ricky’s customers, and it is impossible not to laugh. Shelly warms your heart and you just want him to close. Slater’s Ricky is impeccable: he is drenched in the kind of charisma and chat one needs to succeed in a sales environment, and his command of the office is obvious. I’d forgotten how much Slater has the smarm face down to a T and boy, oh boy, was I reminded of it. Along with the perfected facial expression of self-satisfaction, Slater brings likability to the role: even though it’s obvious that Ricky has no moral compass, somehow it’s impossible to hold that against him.

Sam Yates’ direction of the piece means that a show originally written for the society of 1984 America is relatable and enjoyable in London 2017. Mamet’s script has stood the test of time, and when a show is done as well as this production, one can overlook the occasional dated character belief.

The only thing that I could object to about the show is that it’s a real boys’ club. I was hoping and praying for a female character who was up there, playing with the big boys and holding her own – but hey, that’s a discussion I’d need to have with David Mamet.

Glengarry Glen Ross is playing at the Playhouse Theatre until February 3 2018.

Photo: Tristram Kenton