Thursday, January 26, 2006

Robert Massey’s Deadline

“Only about 20% of those in sales should be in sales. Only 20% are the type that will succeed there: comfortable, confident people,” says Robert Massey, as though briefing potential candidates for his sales force. “And the rest: they’re just are not suited to the job.”

Happily for Massey the “hobbyist” playwright – though not for his alter ego whose day job is managing sales at a Dublin “DIY hardware” business – those statistics show that plenty of the wrong sort of people end up in sales. “Sometimes it’s even more complicated than that. There are some people who are suited to it at one point in there life, but then find as they grow older they’re not.”

Massey’s first play, set among the salesmen (and their female boss) explores the corrosive effects a peculiar mixture of hardcore affability and macho posturing, alongside the tyranny of sales targets, can have on the lives of all those involved. American dramatists from Arthur Miller, all the way to David Mamet (Deadline has a distinct savour of Glengarry Glen Ross to it) have patrolled this territory before. Massey acknowledges their influence – along with that of Patrick Marber – but feels his show has particularly things to say to the Ireland of today, a country in which huge shifts are taking place in our philosophies of work.

“The work environment here has changed tremendously. We’ve become very serious about being the best, about coming out on top. And that has changed work for everyone…I think that there are a lot of people hitting an age when they have worked very hard for a number of years and they are asking: what did we get?”

For his own part Massey, clearly a born salesman, a limber conversationalist, has no intention of quitting his line of work. After all, he suggests, the struggles and the pressures that we see in Deadline are common to most lines of work.

“Give me an hour and I could write the play about buyers,” he says. “Give me two hours and I could make it about journalists. It is really about the working world, and the struggle there, and the pressure that people are under there. I happened to write about sales because that is where I come from.”

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