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Thursday 14 February 2019

Q&A: Actor Mark Benton Talks Glengarry Glen Ross Ahead Of The Award-Winning Play's Run @ Theatre Royal Brighton

The stage and screen star Mark Benton tells us about touring in David Mamet's award-winning, fast-talking drama Glengarry Glen Ross, which plays Theatre Royal Brighton, this coming April.

Q/ What is Glengarry Glen Ross about?

Mark Benton: It's about a high pressure office in America in the 1980s. There's a sales competition going on. If you're in the top two on the leader board at the end of the week, you get to keep your job. Third or fourth and you're out. So the pressure's really on.

Then there's a theft and all the sales leads are stolen. It"s a whodunit as to who stole the leads. It's a comedy too, and it"s fast moving and really exciting. As an audience, you get this amazing hour and a half that leaves you feeling like: "What just happened?"

Q/ Why did you want to do the show?

Mark Benton: I love the film and I adore Jack Lemmon. The idea of playing Shelley, the part he played, was a massive draw. It's every actors dream, I think, to do Mamet. 

You get to swear a lot and it's not about being subtle. It's about BOOM! BANG! and you can go for it and you can lose your temper. The characters are all snakes really. None of them are nice. I love that friction and the fire in the dialogue. 

Q/ You're playing Shelley Levene. What's he like?

Mark Benton: When we join the play Shelley's right at the bottom of the board. He's called Shelley 'The Machine' Levene because in his heyday he was number one. But he's well past those glory days. 

Shelley has not made anything. He's got no money on the board at all. He's struggling. He's frustrated because he"s going to lose his job and he can't do anything about it. We find him at the point of breaking, really.

You wouldn't get an office like this nowadays. You wouldn't get away with it. The play really shines a light on the dark side of men, the useless, ineffectual side. It's full of that bravado that I think a lot of men have. The macho thing. But I think Shelley, in particular, you get to see another side to. You do find out why he's desperate. He is, I think, the most human because you see his foibles and it's not all macho with him. 

Q/ You're part of a fantastic cast that also includes Nigel Harman. What are they like to work with?

Mark Benton: It's a given that they're all fantastic actors. Sam [Yates, the director] wouldn't have cast them otherwise. But they're also lovely people. 

I was concerned that because it was an all-male cast it would get all macho, but nobody's like that at all. 

Q/ In an era when so much entertainment is available on demand, what makes theatre so special?

Mark Benton: I like watching Netflix as much as the next person, but I think with a live experience there"s a bond between the audience and the actors. 

You're there on that night and it"s live; it could go wrong. You're seeing that night's show and no one will ever see that performance again. It should be exciting. It should challenge you in a different way to TV because you're watching a story unfold right in front of you. 

It's a thing that I can't quite explain; that feeling of the hush as the lights go down and then bang, we're off! You're being told a story and you"re right there with it. That's the excitement of live theatre for me.

Q/ How did you get into performing?

Mark Benton: I grew up on a council estate in Middlesbrough, so this career is very unusual, but my uncle's an actor. I used to worship him and wanted to be like him so much. I used to do any acting I could. Anything and everything. 

I auditioned for drama school when I was 18 and I didn't get in, probably because I was learning my speech in the car on the way down. I tried again when I was 21. 

That was my last ditch attempt. I auditioned for RADA and Central because that's all I had the money for. I remember getting the letter telling me if I'd made it or not. It was really thin. I thought if I'd got in it would be really thick. I opened it and just read, "We are pleased…" That was it. It was a real change in my life. It went on from there. 

Q/ What can audiences expect from a trip to see Glengarry Glen Ross?

Mark Benton: The can expect fun, excitement, a lot of loud voices, a lot of arguments and a lot of laughs. 

Q/ Is there anywhere you're particularly excited about touring?

Mark Benton: I'm really excited to go to Brighton because it's the nearest place to where I live. I love Brighton, it's such a great city. The people are great and it's so vibrant and full of possibility and freedom. I hope they enjoy the play. 

Glengarry Glen Ross plays Brighton Theatre Royal from Monday 22nd to Sat 27th April 2019. CLICK HERE for dates, times and prices.

by: Mike Cobley & Matthew Amer


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