Speed-the-Plow review - Lindsay Lohan brings unusual naivety to tame revival

04 Oct 2014 15:48

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So how was she? The first thing to say is that Lindsay Lohan gives a perfectly creditable performance in this revival of David Mamet's acerbic, anti-Hollywood satire. Whatever her colourful past, Lohan brings on stage a quality of breathless naivety that is far and away the most interesting thing in Lindsay Posner's otherwise tame, under-powered revival.
Lohan plays Karen, the temporary secretary to a newly appointed studio production chief who persuades him to abandon a surefire project in favour of a clunky novel about radiation. It is perfectly possible to interpret Karen as a sharp-witted Hollywood hustler.
But Lohan, with her husky voice and rapt intensity, convinces you of Karen's sincerity when she gets her boss to talk about principles. Even if, in the play's central scene, she turns up at the chief's house in a startlingly brief mini-dress, Lohan implies that Karen is simply using her sex appeal as a means to further the project. This doesn't mean Lohan is ready to play Hedda Gabler tomorrow: simply that, aside from a single prompt, she holds the stage with ease and doesn't let the side down.
But, although Karen is a pivotal figure, Mamet's main aim is to expose the deep insecurity that lies behind the macho bluster of Hollywood honchos. The meat of the play lies in the scenes between Bobby, the new head of production, and his old friend Charlie, who comes to him with a highly bankable package involving a prison-set script and a hot director.
Photograph: Tristram Kenton
The scenes between them should crackle and fizz, as they did in Matthew Warchus's 2008 Old Vic production, but here they never take wing, partly because of the miscasting of Richard Schiff as Bobby.
The intention, I assume, is to suggest that Bobby is a pliable organisation man.
But Schiff, with his modest demeanour and quiet voice, never persuades us that Bobby is, in Mamet's words, an old movie whore who has been working the system with Charlie for 11 years and who is elated when a dream project lands in his lap. There should be a hectic elation to the opening scene when Bobby rhapsodises about the "great big jolly shitloads of money" the two men are set to make.
Instead Schiff looks about as excited as if he'd just won the office raffle which takes the edge off his later conversion to the radiation novel.
It is left to Nigel Lindsay as Charlie to supply the energy that is missing. Even he has an uphill task, however. He only comes into his own in the final scene when he goes berserk as he thinks his cherished prison-project is in jeopardy. A big, burly figure, Lindsay goes into a panic sweat, roars and raves and starts spelling out the holy writ of Hollywood which is that "you are paid to make films people like". It underlines Mamet's point that the movie industry is trapped in archaic formulae and ultimately governed by fear.
It is faintly ironic that a play attacking Hollywood's cautious cynicism itself here relies on a piece of ostentatious celebrity-casting. But, of all the people called Lindsay involved in this production, it is Lohan who actually comes off best. She brings a fresh quality to Mamet's play by suggesting Karen is less a manipulative witch than a figure of genuine missionary zeal.

  • What the other critics said: reviews roundup
  • Speed-the-Plow: in pictures
  • Why Mamet's play has the perfect role for Lohan
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  • Will tale of Lohan in London end up a tragedy or comedy?


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