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Review of The Grönholm Method at the Menier Chocolate Factory

Laura Pitt-Pulford (Melanie), Jonathan Cake (Frank). by Manuel Harlan
Laura Pitt-Pulford (Melanie), Jonathan Cake (Frank). by Manuel Harlan

Job interviews are horrible. It doesn’t matter how many you have been through, they are always terrifying, And these days, the higher the position, the more difficult the interview process. Of course, the important thing is how much do you want the job? And this is where the ultimate interview comes in, which is the subject of Jordi Galceran’s play – translated by Anne García-Romero and Mark St. Germain – The Grönholm Method at the Menier Chocolate Factory.

On the 11th floor of a Manhattan building sits a small meeting/reception room. It is nicely furnished, with chrome and leather chairs that look good but are, like most corporate offices, prob\bly very uncomfortable. Floor to ceiling windows look out over ‘downtown’ and on a table in the seating area sits four glasses and four bottles of water. Only one chair is currently occupied, and that is by a besuited man called Frank (Jonathan Cake). He is not alone for long as another gentleman, also suited and booted, comes in. He introduces himself as Rick (John Gordon Sinclair) and he, like Frank is here for a job interview – in fact, they are both there going after the same job. Soon they are joined by two other people, Carl (Greg McHugh) and Melanie (Laura Pitt-Pulford). All four of them have been called together to be interviewed for the same senior sales position in the corporation. As they size each other up and wait for their turn in front of the interview panel, a drawer opens and a task is given which starts a process of deciding which of the four candidates should be appointed as, in the words of ‘Highlander’, there can be only one!

First thing to say about The Grönholm Method is that the staging is perfect. The set – designed by Tim Hatley – looks so realistic it could have fallen straight out of an interior designer’s catalogue. Having worked for a company based in the US previously, looking at the set reminded me of all those trips to Chicago and meetings held in rooms that are meant to impress visitors. Backing up the set was Howard Harrison’s lighting which took us from glorious day to wonderful skyscraper lit night as the play progressed. Sheer magic.

Jordi Galceran has written a fascinating story – with four very recognizable, if at times a little too stereotypical, characters – that brings the recruitment and interview processes used by some firms sharply into focus. I’ve been through psychometric testing, preparing and giving presentations, assessment days, group discussions, telephone, panel, structured, unstructured, competency based, etc in my time and The Grönholm Method (it’s a made up name) is just taking interview techniques to a new level. However, the quality of the writing is not only the method but the twists and turns, of which there are an amazing amount for a 90-minute show, that leave you wondering who exactly is who and is anyone who or what they claim to be?

All of this is delivered by four talented actors who seem to relish their respective parts. Jonathan Cake was my favourite because he was so horribly ruthless. He actually reminded me so much of someone I used to work for who would happily crawl over his workforce, casually stabbing any potential rivals in the back as he went, in order to get a promotion. His character Frank has an amazing solo rant in the latter part of the production that is utterly spellbinding. Each of the four brings something different to the party and as the ‘tests’ progress, the characters bitch and snipe at each other in a way that is very familiar to anyone that has watched The Apprentice.
BT McNicholl directs the play with an assured touch and keeps the action flowing, not really allowing the audience to draw a breath as the action moves forward to a conclusion that, like the characters themselves, may or may not be all it seems.

Having worked for an American corporation before, the action in The Grönholm Method felt like a very realistic, if over the top, portrayal of corporate life. Whilst some of the sentiments, particularly many of those expressed by Frank, may be abhorrent to most people they are quite often the norm amongst career driven people trying to get up another rung on the ladder. The play could be horribly depressing, except for the humour, of which there is much running throughout the play. Overall, it is a pretty realistic slice of corporate life that makes me so glad I now live my life in the public sector. This is a fascinating play that I found utterly riveting from start to finish.

4 stars

Review by Terry Eastham

The UK Premiere of
By Jordi Galceran. Translated by Anne García-Romero and Mark St. Germain.

Interview with Laura Pitt-Pulford

Set in the offices of a New York City Fortune 500 company, four unsuspecting candidates embark on the most testing job interview of their lives.

This taut play, premiered in Barcelona in 2003 to great critical acclaim, exposes the psychological depths people will go to in order to get what they want.

In our age of reality TV game shows and tweeting US Presidents, The Grönholm Method explores the human capacity to manipulate, lie and ‘play the game’ to get ahead in life.

10th May – 7th July 2018


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