Will Lindsay Lohan have learned her lines by the time Speed-the-Plow’s press night comes around?
Theatre rehearsals are a safe and sacred place where actors and the people guiding them – directors, choreographers, musical directors, fight directors, dialogue coaches etc – can investigate and discover their parts in private, and fail as often as they need to. There are sometimes calls to make this process more public, but it seems to me to betray the climate of total trust that actors need in order to do their preparation.
But once the paying audience arrives at the first preview, different rules apply. Now they are on public display and their producers are taking money for what they are doing, just as they are being paid themselves for what they are doing. The show needs to be ready. It may not yet be perfect, of course, but the curtain should not be brought up on a show until it is ready for public consumption.
And so we come to London’s latest hot topic, Speed-the-Plow, in which Lindsay Lohan is making her professional stage debut. According to the gossip on internet forums, “she turned up.”
Wondering whether the star will actually appear as billed is a comparative novelty in London, though there have been such notorious examples in the past as Martine McCutcheon (whose understudies in My Fair Lady famously gave more performances as Eliza Doolittle than she actually did during its run at the National Theatre), you should actually be able to count on the appearance of the billed star.
In a preview feature on the play for The Independent, Emily Jupp wrote:
While Lohan’s name should have pulling power at the box office, her reputation for unreliability could also cost the Playhouse theatre dearly.
I also thought there would be concern about the Hollywood actor turning up, but in the same piece I gave her the benefit of the doubt. For now, rightly. She did turn up. But how did she do?
Back at the Whatsonstage forums, she’s given credit for being “husky and together” pre-interval, but “when she had a big speech, she needed prompting about five times. It’s a first preview. I forgive her. Others won’t.”
Another commenter says:
It’s the first preview so I don’t want to be too harsh, but both Lohan and Schiff had to be prompted, despite the fact Lohan very obviously had some of her lines written on props.
And another chimes in with:
It is outrageous that a professional company are not ready to perform in front of a paying audience. Previews are for tweaking the pacing and the odd line not for learning them.
Rehearsals masquerading as previews seems to be the modern trend… an ever-increasing number of productions seem to be treating previews as a way of getting the money rolling in while still rehearsing.
The show will no doubt get better by the time I see it next Thursday at the opening night – there’s nothing like the pressure of performance (and the imminent arrival of the critics) to concentrate the mind. But given just how much attention would inevitably be focused on Lohan’s stage debut, I’m surprised they didn’t build in more time for her to face an audience – and perhaps brought in an invited, non-paying one first – so she could do so without the gaze of bulletin board commentary.
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