By Jordi Galcerán Ferrer, translated by Anne Garcia-Romero
Directed by Nadia Tass.
With David Whiteley, Jay Bowen, Shane Nagle & Karen Sibbing,
Set: Peter Mumford
Lighting: Stelios Karagiannis
Stage Manager: Emma Hale
IN THE mid ’90s, psychologists began to study similarities between entrepreneurs and sociopaths. Superficial charm, a lack of empathy, an inflated sense of one’s own importance: traits that would be disturbing in a dark alley were cherished in the boardroom.
Catalonian playwright Jordi Galceran Ferrer homes in on the dysfunctional culture of corporate management in his slick black comedy The Gronholm Method.
Four high-powered applicants arrive at an office for a final interview. The prize is a senior management role at a multinational corporation. What they don’t know is that the interview started the moment they walked in the door.
Observed by unseen masters, Frank (David Whiteley), Rick (Shane Nagle),Melanie (Karen Sibbing) and Carl (Jay Bowen) must compete against each other in a series of psychological tests.
At intervals, fresh instructions appear from a drawer in the wall. They begin with the announcement that one of the four is a plant from the human resources department. The applicants have 10 minutes to discover the mole.
If this sounds like reality TV show Survivor or, more germanely, Donald Trump’s The Apprentice, it’s no coincidence. But as each mind game drags the players to a new level of ruthlessness and humiliation, what starts as light entertainment becomes a grotesque examination of how corporate culture rewards immoral behaviour.
Director Nadia Tass delivers a swift, sure-footed production, its humour laced with latent anxiety and menace. It’s a very strong ensemble performance. Each actor sketches a credible corporate climber, the characters defined as much by what they hide as they reveal.
The performances are precisely observed, the comic timing impeccable. But what impressed me most about the actors was the way they used Galceran’s game-playing framework to generate momentum, swinging from light comedy to intense drama in the blink of an eye.
The highlight was the brutal conflict between Frank and Carl. Whiteley and Bowen mesmerised, even as I cringed with revulsion. For all its humour, The Gronholm Method offers a remorselessly bleak vision of the inhumanity of corporate culture.
As his tigers prowl around the boardroom, we slowly realise we’re watching some sort of sick talent quest for the ultimate sociopath.
In the end, it’s the psychologists who have the last laugh, though that’s less comforting than you might imagine.
Cameron Woodhead, The Age (14/06/10)
l’enfer, c’est les autres” (hell is other people) – Jean-Paul Sartre.
The Grönholm Method suggests not only that hell is definitely other people, but that by selling out, removing personal responsibility and becoming slaves to The Man, we’re even more fucked. Does it have to be inevitable, though?
Do you like Survivor? Exactly how far would you go to win one million dollars? Have you ever considered auditioning for X-Factor, but then been concerned by the idea that people might think your act is more traffic accident than talent? Didn’t you wonder if that isn’t exactly what the 7 network wants anyway? The Grönholm Method, a play by Spanish writer Jordi Galcerán Ferrer, explores the increasingly disturbed nature of human interaction and makes you question how far people are willing to compromise themselves, their morals, and their integrity, for a chance at success.
The play’s premise is to take four hungry individuals and pit them against each other in a bizarre yet supposedly scientific fashion to determine who is the ‘best fit’ for a high powered job. (Yes, kids, because people are like a tetris game, but with more complicated pointy parts?) This Aussie English translation of The Grönholm Method really hits home, and while managing to be funny and insightful, is also like a car crash from which you just can’t look away. Props must go to the Red Stitch crew for creating such an immersive set, and to David Whiteley, Shayne Nagle, Karen Sibbing and Jay Bowen for making the audience feel like flies on the wall through the whole perverse process.
If the modern media are to be believed, the Y generation isn’t all that fussed about privacy anyway, and everyone today is just out to get their own piece of the pie. I don’t agree. This play disturbed me – it was easy to forget the fictional premise and honestly, how far off the mark is it? Nice one, Nadia Tass. But how am I supposed to sleep at night?
Seriously though, see this show. It’s phenomenal.
Annaliese Gillard, RHUM online (12/06/10)
With the GFC still tugging at the purse and BP averting its gaze from countless oil-smudged pelicans, corporate inhumanity remains a fish-in-a-barrel target for the arts.
The Red Stitch production of The Gronholm Method takes aim again, but not in the normal capitalist-hating way. A corporate sales manager, Frank, arrives in a slick boardroom for a job interview. Little does he know three other candidates are also arriving to take part.
The unusual group interview process takes a curious turn as the nameless company asks interviewees to face off against each other in a series of humiliating games. The darkest corners of inhuman corporate HR are explored, leaving the white-collar members of the audience wondering how they could possibly go back to the office on Monday. The intimate Red Stitch Theatre adds to the intensity, but the use of only four characters, constantly on set, leaves it at risk of becoming boring. Still, the risk is overcome by the engaging script.
Unlike most business-bagging productions, the play holds at its core a knowledge of corporate process that stabs the unsuspecting office worker in the crotch in a similar way to David Brent’s cringe-inducing boss in The Office.
But at its end, The Gronholm Method is not for laughs. It certainly offers plenty throughout, with a strong lead performance from David Whiteley. The end aims to throw into doubt the behaviour of competition and the lust for corporate success over decency. Director Nadia Tass’s filmmaking experience is notable in the spot lighting and gradually changing backdrop, giving an edge to this quirky production.
Sunday Herald Sun (12/06/10)