Ginger Hibiscus | Review of Speed-The-Plow at The Playhouse in London by Ginger Hibiscus
Review of Speed-The-Plow at The Playhouse in London's West End by Ginger Hibiscus
Review of Speed-The-Plow at The Playhouse in London's West End by Ginger Hibiscus
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05 Oct REVIEW: Speed-the-Plow at The Playhouse Theatre

Speed-The-Plow. It’s that play with Lindsay Lohan in. You know, the one by David Mamet that’s had critics positively salivating at the prospect of some easy prey to sink their teeth into. You know the one I mean? The play where the previews were beset by Lohan repeatedly forgetting her lines? Yes? Now you’ve got it…

To say that Lindsay Lohan’s West End debut has been much anticipated- for all kinds of reasons- would be a bit like saying that Mean Girls’ Regina George is a little bit unkind. Yet making up only 1/3 of the cast- and much less than 1/3 of the action, she’s more of a facilitator than a protagonist. As a plot device (not a fully-formed character), her role is to make the action happen, rather than to be the action; and whilst Lohan’s days of stumbling around the script like a drunkard seem (hopefully) to be behind her, her grasp of Mamet’s brilliantly sharp wit remains elusive, undermining her ability to provoke from the sidelines.

On the whole, Lohan’s performance as Karen, a temp in the office of a Hollywood writer, Bobby Gould, is adequate. Keen to impress and determined to make an impact, Karen takes it upon herself to champion a truly dire novel about radiation, to force it onto the Hollywood agenda, and to challenge the status quo. She gives us fleeting flashes of Mean Girls magic, but they really are flashes, hidden within lengthy monologues that are delivered earnestly but not convincingly.

Aside from the tabloid fodder and box office catnip that is Lindsay Lohan, we’re treated to strong acting performances from Richard Schiff and Nigel Lindsay as Bobby Gould and Charlie Fox respectively. With lightning fast exchanges, they bounce off each other brilliantly and really make the most of Mamet’s clever script, belittling and objectifying Karen in the, “man’s world” of Hollywood. Without getting into the play’s gender politics, the male characters are indisputably misogynistic, betting $500 on the ability of Bobby to sleep with Karen, calling her, “pussy,” “the bra,” and “whore,” over and over again.

The two-dimensionalism of Karen, and attitudes of Bobby and Charlie compound each other such that it’s very difficult to want to root for any of the characters, and therefore to mind very much what happens in the plot. Yet with Mamet, it’s less about what happens, and more about how it happens. His script is undoubtedly excellent, but I felt that I missed so much of it through a combination of impenetrable accents that require an inordinate amount of concentration to decipher, and through a lack of sufficient projection in the voices that even in the front row of the Dress Circle I was straining my ears to know what was going on. It has to be said, though, that Lohan’s Karen has one seriously sexy voice.

Voices aside, it’s fast paced and funny, though having one interval in a play of three acts means it does flow a bit strangely. An interesting glimpse behind the scenes of Hollywood drama, it’s smart and entertaining, if unlikely to change your life.

For tickets and information:

Dates: 24th September – 29th November 2014

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Image credit: Simon Anand

Star Rating

Ginger Hibiscus don’t like using stars as a headline; we think they’re too reductionist, and that decision-making based on stars misses the point of a review. Just as you wouldn’t judge a personality using a five-point scale, theatre is multi-dimensional. So have a read, and then look at the stars afterwards.
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