sat 14/12/2019

The Grönholm Method, Menier Chocolate Factory - sleek and short but in no way deep | reviews, news & interviews

The Grönholm Method, Menier Chocolate Factory - sleek and short but in no way deep

The Grönholm Method, Menier Chocolate Factory - sleek and short but in no way deep

Much-travelled play contains one twist too many

Biding his time: Jonathan Cake in 'The Gronholm Method'Manuel Harlan

Add Catalan writer Jordi Galcerán to the shortlist of European playwrights who are finding an international perch, in this case with a tricksy four-character play that has had more than 200 productions in over 60 countries. The UK premiere of The Grönholm Method follows six years on from a Los Angeles staging that boasted the same director (Mike Nichols protégé BT McNicholl) and leading man (Jonathan Cake as the bilious Frank), while a 2007 Spanish movie, The Method, expanded the premise for the screen. 

Given all this activity and attention, it's moderately surprising that the material itself doesn't feel more substantial, at least in this 90-minute, New York-set iteration from Anne Garcia-Romero and Mark St Germain that fizzes along for a while before buckling under the weight of one scripted slalom too many. One can't help feeling, either, that comparable scenarios have been played out for considerably higher stakes before: Glengarry Glen Ross and Mike Bartlett's Bull are among the darker, deeper equivalents that come to mind, albeit spiced with liberal doses of Neil LaBute and Yasmina Reza in their more toxic modes.The Grönholm Method, Menier Chocolate FactoryThe antecedent that comes to mind most directly (and improbably) at the beginning is Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None, Fortune 500-style. Four people, two of whom were Harvard classmates, gather high up in one or another Manhattan hymn to corporate mammon to compete for a job while the HR department looks on like an omnivorous if unseen Big Brother. Tasks are presented, games are played, and a filing cabinet mysteriously slides open, prompting one or another object that must be dealt with in turn. (Tim Hatley's set delivers the necessary box of tricks while selling the inevitably sleek, soulless visual sizzle.)

Along the way, allegiances shift and defences get laid bare, though it's in the nature of the play's set-up that very little can be taken as read. It's giving nothing away to reveal that not all four applicants may even be there for the same purpose, which partly explains why Cake's take-no-prisoners Frank looks suspicious when Melanie (musicals regular Laura Pitt-Pulford, here wavering slightly with the accent) passes the designer water his way. (Pictured above: Laura Pitt-Pulford, Jonathan Cake)

The Grönholm Method, Menier Chocolate FactoryThe competitive environment lays bare the quartet's collective fangs, however cheerfully Rick (John Gordon-Sinclair, in appealingly Tom Hanks mode) dispenses Tic Tacs with seemingly genuine bonhomie. The facts, such as they are, exist to be upended or revised: does Melanie actually work for Barclays, and might an informant in the ranks include her onetime chum Carl (Greg McHugh, pictured above, with Sinclair), whose specific perch on the gender spectrum prompts the most unbridled of Frank's many, unrelievedly hateful broadsides? (Frank's own self-assessment is that he's "a bit of an asshole but not totally".)

Intended to induce mental whiplash, the narrative springs one fresh reveal after another right through to the final line, though that, too, may represent yet another verbal bluff amidst a landscape where posturing is the norm and the bad guy may very well finish first. One can't help wishing in the decade-plus since the play's 2003 Spanish premiere that the text had been revisited to reflect, perhaps, the new Trump-era brutality, whereby animosity is worn as a badge of manliness. (As it is, a random jab at the Clinton administration doesn't land.) That said, Frank, we're told, is from Queens, as of course is 45, and while The Grönholm Method can be enjoyed as a slick if none-too-deep contrivance, the real world, I'm afraid, is still too much with us.

Intended to induce mental whiplash, the narrative springs one fresh reveal after another


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters