There’s an undeniably cliched 80s feel to David Mamet’s three-hander, Speed-the-Plow. It captures a Working Girl-esque image of corporate America, of the dog-eat-dog world that is illustrated so bluntly in Wall Street. Does it work? Perhaps back when it was first staged in 1988. Lindsay Posner, in his direction of this revival, has kept it very simple and Robert Innes Hopkins’s design of the two scene changes, equally so. Paul Anderson makes a predominant office scene seem garish and overbearing with brash lighting and pounces on a subtler approach for the ‘hey I’m a rich, powerful man, hope it’s not too obvious’ apartment scene. There’s a great cast which includes Nigel Lindsay of Shrek: the Musical fame and Richard Schiff, perhaps less well known in the UK for The West Wing. And then of course, there’s Lindsay Lohan who I’m sure you’ll agree, needs no introduction.
Casting such a high profile and controversial figure as Lohan in such an intimate play as this was always going to bring some baggage. I feel quite strongly about making an unsurprising presumption about why the vast majority of the public will be seeing Speed-the-Plow and it’s for Lohan. There’s an element of seeing a movie star in ‘real life’; that unattainable wall coming down, even for a brief amount of time and that thirst for blood, which much of society has delightfully developed. People want to see if she’ll fail, if she’ll fluff her lines (she had some unfortunate incidents during previews), if she’ll break out in ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ like some uncontrollable bout of Tourettes or just fall flat on her face and throw a tantrum. For your 411, none of this happened.
Was she amazing? Certainly not. Was she good? There were glimpses. The trouble I have is that the part of Karen, a seemingly naive temporary secretary is just not right for her. There are moments of relief as Lohan becomes heavily passionate, specifically during acts two and three, which show that she is a capable actress but the highly unbelievable and awfully patronising script just does her no favours. OK this is a satire – I get it, but it does not justify such weak writing. The cast do the best they can, and Nigel Lindsay’s brutal Charlie Fox is perhaps the most impressive. Schiff’s turn as movie man Bobby Gould, tasked with getting Karen into bed, shifts from narcissist to ball of unsure and emotional turbulence with unseen ease.
Perhaps I’m missing the point here but I’m finding it hard to see past the uninteresting characters Mamet has created. Lohan’s persistent “it may be naive of me” could have held a certain and slightly ironic twinge the first time but after the fourth it was decidedly annoying. This character in particular is not any clearer to me in the final, emotional scenes as when she initially rocks up into Gould’s office. Is she (that dreaded word) naive? Or is Gould?
Speed-the-Plow‘s return is really not necessary for the West End. Perhaps Lohan isn’t as well-suited to the stage as she is the screen, but it doesn’t mean she deserves negativity for trying. There’s a raw vulnerability that will always be a part of her – or at least the persona we see and the fraction she shows here is heartbreaking. This woman is on her way back to the top in a blaze of glory but I think it will be well within the confines of her comfort zone – behind the camera.
Speed-the-Plow is playing at the Playhouse theatre until 29 November. For more information and tickets, see the ATG Tickets website.