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Speed-the-Plow

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David Mamet’s 1988 play is an arresting but derivative satire on Hollywood’s shallow values, but its staging now inadvertently provides its own commentary on the West End’s own rush to the bottom. A play about a pair of opportunists desperate to get the green light for their film projects has itself been opportunistically revived mainly to provide a vehicle for Lindsay Lohan, the former child film star turned celebrity personality and now a London resident, to make her professional stage debut in.

The role similarly provided a vehicle for Madonna’s stage debut in the original Broadway production, but the husky-voiced, physically awkward Lohan is seriously out of her depth and was still being prompted on a line on the first night. Whether it is down to nervousness or a lack of preparation, the producers still need to ask if it is appropriate to have exposed her so publicly in this way, or audiences to it.

Admittedly, a certain tentativeness is built into the role: she plays Karen, a temp secretary to a newly-anointed film mogul. Karen uses her sexuality to gain advantage on her middle-aged boss Richard Schiff, best known for TV’s The West Wing but previously seen in the West End in a one-man play Underneath the Lintel.

But the Lindsay we should be talking about is Nigel Lindsay, not Lohan, who is full of sweaty anxiety for the right reasons as he watches his film project threatening to get derailed, for some of the wrong reasons.

Mamet lays out the moral dilemmas here with his signature rapid-fire exchanges, themselves now a dramatic cliche but performed with convincing precision by Lindsay and Schiff, while Lohan struggles to make a similar mark as her character is sidelined. Director Lindsay Posner knows his Mamet: this is the fifth he has directed.

But just six years on from when it was last seen on the London stage with Kevin Spacey, Jeff Goldblum and Laura Michelle Kelly at the Old Vic, I’m not sure this play really needs another go-round quite soon; in fact, this is the fourth major London production in 25 years. But with just three actors, producers are obviously tempted by the fact it is relatively cheap to produce.

It’s sad, though, that they’ve cheapened it further by an act of unashamed stunt casting. There are plenty of far better qualified actresses in London who would have served the play much better.

  • Playhouse Theatre, London
  • September 24-November 29, PN October 2
  • Author: David Mamet
  • Director: Lindsay Posner
  • Design: Robert Innes Hopkins set/costume, Paul Anderson lighting
  • Technical: Sam Paterson production manager, Howard Jepson company stage manager, Sian Harris costume supervisor, Lizzie Frankl properties supervisor, Maggie Lunn casting
  • Cast: Richard Schiff, Nigel Lindsay, Lindsay Lohan
  • Producers: Danny Moar, Simon Friend, Theatre Royal Bath Productions
  • Running time: 1hr 40mins
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The Stage
The Stage is a British weekly newspaper and website covering the entertainment industry, and particularly theatre. It was founded in 1880. It contains news, reviews, opinion, features, and recruitment advertising.
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