The Grönholm Method at Menier Chocolate Factory
As most people would agree, the interviewing process can be a gruelling one, though it has the potential to teach us a thing or two. Playwright Jordi Galceran’s highly inventive and witty play on the recruitment system, The Grönholm Method, first premiered in Barcelona, Spain in 2003 – where it was an instant success – and has since been translated into 20 languages and performed in more than 60 countries.
Part absurd comedy, part high-octane drama, the production focuses on three men and one woman, all competing to secure an executive position at a Fortune 500 company – in this case the fictional Bernholm & Bernholm. In director BT Nicholl’s New York adaptation (translated by Anne Garcia-Romero and Mark St Germain) background traffic is overheard, part of the cityscape, culminating when the play starts. Tim Hatley’s set design works exceptionally well in the intimate space of the Menier Chocolate Factory, giving us a hyper-realistic corporate office complete with silhouetted skyscrapers. Though there is no musical score, the piece has enough dialogue firing back and forth to drive it forward without falling into a dull respite.
Dialect coach Nick Trumble’s work on the actors is remarkable; each of them sounds wholesomely American. The cast’s demeanour is very typical too, the whole ensemble putting on fine performances as power hungry corporate Americans, whether it be Frank (Jonathan Cake) with his showy bravura or John Gordon Sinclair’s imposing stance as Rick Foster. The gender bias brings home the issue of recruitment procedures in real life workplaces worldwide, though the writer focuses more on the psychological effects and the candidates’ reactions to tasks that are mysteriously asked of them by a drawer that opens and closes randomly. The first challenge – for which they have to figure out which of them is secretly a member of HR – creates a sense of heightened paranoia as they start discussing the presence of hidden cameras and microphones, getting lost in the intertwining bluffs. The outlandish required assignments call to mind those that are expected of the prisoners in the Saw movie franchise, though with a lot less at stake – namely their lives.
Galceran’s sharp script makes you laugh at how ridiculous and out-dated most application processes are, and the lengths the participants are willing to go to get what they want. His play has also been adapted successfully for the screen, which is unsurprising given that the drama is so relatable and provokes empathy through themes of aspirations in a ruthless corporate world, producing a collective feeling of adrenaline which is almost cathartic in some ways.
Alongside unpredictable plot progressions, tirades and human responses to gameshow-like tasks, the playwright has cleverly produced a wickedly funny and entertaining satire that holds a mirror up to working society. The open-ended final line by Frank only reiterates the amusing absurdity; clever, thought provoking and unpredictable, it truly exemplifies the idea that what we have just witnessed “isn’t a job interview, it’s something else.’’
Photo: Manuel Harlan
The Grönholm Method is at Menier Chocolate Factory from 10th May until 7th July 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.