Theatre review: Speed the Plow at Playhouse Theatre

The onstage action in Lindsay Posner’s much-hyped revival of Speed-the-Plow can’t begin to compete with its offstage drama. Ever since tabloid target Lindsay Lohan’s casting was announced, people have been taking bets on her actually making it to the theatre, let alone giving a West End-worthy performance.

The bad news for vultures is that she’s not a total train wreck, requiring just one audible prompt on press night, but offers an abject lesson in the difference between speaking lines and creating a fully realised character.

Childlike

In fairness, Mamet poses a challenge with enigmatic Karen, the naïve temp secretary who convinces newly appointed Hollywood studio boss Bobby (Richard Schiff) to ditch producer Charlie’s (Nigel Lindsay) commercial dead cert in favour of adapting a morally righteous tome.

Yet Lohan, though appealingly childlike, is convincing neither as an impassioned do-gooder nor a cunning manipulator, and her flat intonation grates.


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Most egregious, she lets her scene partners down by switching off ­between lines, as if sensing the camera is no longer on her. It’s an unmistakable ­indication of stage inexperience.

It’s not the only miscasting in Posner’s lethargic production, with Schiff struggling to convince as a hungrily ambitious shark.

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This renders his dramatic 180 – often a tough sell – essentially meaningless, though he’s on surer ground with Bobby’s crisis of conscience.

The least-talked-about actor is the real star: Brit Lindsay is the sole cast member to nail Mamet’s breakneck, machine-gun rhythms. Rather than aping Kevin Spacey’s blistering psychotic devil in Matthew Warchus’s superior 2008 Old Vic version, he presents Charlie as a sweaty, anxious hustler, aware that this is his last shot at financial security – a resonant reading for our times. Sadly, this Speed-the-Plow doesn’t ­deliver satire of an industry sacrificing creative credibility for commercial gain through the play itself, but through the circumstances of its revival.

Rating: 2/5 stars

Until November 29.

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