Tuesday 28 October 2014

Theatre review: Speed-the-Plow

Where the commercial theatre is concerned, the clue is in the name: The primary motivation is profit, it's just that some projects make this more obvious than others. It's clearly the reason for the current show at the Playhouse - Mamet's Speed-the-Plow was only at the Old Vic a few years ago, so I doubt anyone was crying out to see it again just yet, but it does feature a fairly high-profile, but not actually all that big, role for a young actress. Enter Lindsay Lohan, the former child star turned walking soap opera, and you've got a show that should generate plenty of column inches as she predictably goes off the rails. As it turns out Lohan, who joins Nigel Lindsay in Lindsay Posner's production, seems to have been getting on with the job; actually tonight it was the third star, Richard Schiff, possibly being punished for not being called Lindsay, who had lost his voice. So the role of Bobby was played by understudy Adam Morris - although let's call him Lindsay, so he doesn't feel left out.

Bobby (Lindsay) is a studio executive who's recently been promoted, and now has the ability to green-light low-budget movies, and some say in bigger-budget ones. Long-term friend and colleague Charlie (Lindsay) brings him a deal for a sure-fire hit with a star director attached; they just have to wait 24 hours to pitch it to Bobby's boss.

L-R: Lindsay, Lindsay

In that time though, Bobby flirts with his new secretary Karen (Lindsay,) getting her to read a pretentious novel that stands little chance of making a decent film. But she claims to have fallen in love with the book and, the fact that he wants to sleep with Karen a major part of his thought process, Bobby decides to ditch Charlie's project and green-light the unfilmable one instead. Mamet's story is a simple one and something of a Hollywood cliché, its strength being in the rapid-fire, expletive-strewn dialogue between the executives. And as Lindsay's production fails to get the rhythm even remotely right, the play's story, in all its weaknesses, is all that's left exposed.


It'd be easy to blame the understudy but Lindsay does well enough in the lead, and the play still runs at the advertised 95 minutes (including unnecessary interval, because paying ATG's no-interval surcharge would have cut into the profits) so this is presumably the pace it always is. Besides, apparently this isn't the first show Schiff's missed so Lindsay and Lindsay should have developed some chemistry by now. Meanwhile Lindsay herself gives a competent but unspectacular performance, never quite looking confident on stage but not actually falling off it, much, so a disappointment whether you wanted to see her succeed or fail. Speed-the-Plow seems to be one of Mamet's most popular plays but Lindsay's production seems to make the argument for it being one of the worst, sadly the only clever thing about it being the unintended irony of a play about producing films for profit over art being produced for profit over art.

Richard fell asleep in the first act and I had to nudge him awake. The first act is just 30 minutes long.

Speed-the-Lindsays by David Mamet is booking until the 29th of November at the Playhouse Theatre.

Running time: 1 hour 35 minutes including interval.

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