Hollywood is a funny old place. Nobody outside of Tinseltown really understands how a movie gets made or often why? “Speed-the-Plow”, currently at the Playhouse Theatre, tries to open the lid on the process for the naïve movie watcher.
Bobby Gould (Richard Schiff) is newly promoted to the position of Head of Production at a major Hollywood studio and is sitting in his half-painted office on his first day in the job, when in bounds his associate Charlie Fox (Nigel Lindsay), with the brilliant news that a major Hollywood star has come to see him to say that he wants to make a movie with the studio. The two men are ecstatic. They have the star, they have the script, they have a sure-fire box office winner, all they need is the green light from the head of the studio to make their vision a reality.
These men are not nice guys. They have a truly cynical attitude to making movies, and also to the public that go and watch them. Their credo is simple “bums on seats are all that matters!” And yet, whilst they are impossible to like, it is obvious in their interactions with each other that there is a lot of shared history and, as much as you can have in their business, genuine affection and respect between them.
Bobby, asks his young, naïve secretary Karen (Lindsay Lohan) to get coffee for them both and after she delivers it, she becomes the butt of their horribly misogynistic banter, ending with a highly inappropriate bet between the men. Bobby introduces us to the Hollywood term “courtesy read”, as he suggests that Karen reads a truly dire book he’s been sent as a potential movie, then meet him in his apartment to discuss it later that evening.
Is Karen really as naïve as she appears? That question is addressed in Act II which takes place in Bobby’s apartment. Karen has read the book and seems transfixed by the doom-laden message within it. Although she understands its lack of box office appeal, she genuinely believes it should be made into a movie. We learn much more about Karen as she sets about using every weapon in her arsenal to persuade Bobby to “do the right thing”, and turn the book into a film so that the world can share in its wisdom.
Act III and we are back at the studio with Bobby telling Charlie he is going to pitch the book to the head of the studio rather than his film with the guaranteed star. This leads to an explosive argument between the two friends which culminates in a final dramatic showdown with Karen, and a denouement that once more demonstrates the “reality” of life under the Hollywood sign.
Overall, this is an interesting play that raises questions. At the very least, as I said in my first paragraph, how and why do movies get made? But this is not enough as there are deeper questions at play here as well. Are films solely there to entertain and distract the masses – the modern day equivalent of bread and circuses? Should Hollywood be making films that, whilst not necessarily being highly commercial, can get messages across to the movie-going public? I know Bobby and Charlie’s answer to that, and in some ways I think I know what Karen would say.
In my own naïve way, I hope that Bobby and Charlie are not true-to-life examples of the Hollywood decision making process, but credit must be given to Richard and Nigel for making both believably unlikeable. And while I never really fully understood Karen’s motivation for the things she did, Lindsay did manage to change my perceptions of both her and the character over the course of the three acts.
There is nowhere for actors to hide in a three-hander and mistakes, which occur in every production, are often more noticeable than in a standard ensemble piece. But Richard, Nigel and Lindsay work well together delivering, at times amazingly fast and complicated dialogue. The set is uncomplicated and on the whole, makes the best use of the Playhouse’s relatively small stage. This is not a standard play by any means, Speed-the-Plow will possibly divide audiences as they react to the character and situations in front of them, but there’s nothing wrong with a bit of debate as you leave the theatre is there?
Review by Terry Eastham
Danny Moar and Simon Friend for Theatre Royal Bath Productions presents Lindsay Lohan, Richard Schiff and Nigel Lindsay in Speed-the-Plow by David Mamet
When a hugely bankable star agrees to appear in a sure-fire commercial hit, film producers Bobby Gould (Richard Schiff) and Charlie Fox (Nigel Lindsay) are convinced this is the break of a lifetime. That is until Karen (Lindsay Lohan), a temporary secretary, derails the dream. When she persuades Bobby to dump the blockbuster in favour of a story which can only be described as box-office poison, Charlie is forced to resort to desperate measures…
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Thursday 2nd October 2014