Play by David Mamet. When the biggest star in Hollywood wants to make your movie, just how far will you go to clinch the deal? Hollywood producers Bobby Gould and Charlie Fox engage in a verbal boxing match centered around the eternal debate of art versus money. Should Gould go for another bad blockbuster that will make his fortune or put himself on the line for an adaptation of a spiritual, apocalyptic novel offeed to him by his beautiful secretary Karen? Charlie is then forced to resort to desperate measures. In this tale of greed, seduction and power, everything he believes in will be put to the test. David Mamet's witty, caustic play - filled with his trademark rapid-fire dialogue - satirises the deal making that goes on behind-the-scenes in the movie business.
Original London Production 1989 at the National Theatre
Previewed 19 January 1989, Opened 25 January 1989, Closed 23 August 1989 (in repertory) at the NT Lyttelton Theatre in London
The cast featured Colin Stinton as 'Bobby Gould', Alfred Molina as 'Charlie Fox' and Rebecca Pidgeon as 'Karen'. Directed by Gregory Mosher with designs by Michael Merritt, lighting by Kevin Rigdon and sound by David E Smith.
1st West End Production 2000 (first cast) at the Ambassadors Theatre
Previewed 14 March 2000, Opened 16 March 2000, Closed 22 April 2000 at the Ambassadors Theatre in London
The cast featured Mark Strong as 'Bobby Gould', Patrick Marber as 'Charlie Fox' and Kimberly Williams as 'Karen'. Directed by Peter Gill with designs by John Gunter, lighting by Andy Phillips and music by Terry Davies.
Please note a re-directed and re-cast version of this production was presented in June 2000 at the Duke of York's Theatre.
"Mark Strong's staring-eyed Gould is a compelling study of guile and authority reduced to gutlessness and panic. Patrick Marber is a talented playwright but he should steer clear of the acting arena. His performance reeks of physical unease. He sounds convincing in his climactic rage but his generally immobile stance, head slightly stooped, face kept almost invariably in profile staunches the flow of energy in this delightfully bilious Hollywood satire." The London Evening Standard
"Virtuoso work all round, in a cruel comedy whose satire on various kinds of American bullshit seldom relaxes, and which never flags for a moment. Many of its exchanges are among the funniest in London theatre today. Yet I don't find, on leaving the theatre, that the play goes on growing in my head. While the individual lines coruscate dazzlingly, it sometimes feels, if you attend to the deeper feelings they lodge in your mind, that you are actually being hammered rather slowly and unyieldingly - hammered by Mamet. Speed-the-Plow never invites you in, and it has no largeness of spirit. Bravura theatre; wonderfully unlike anything else in the West End at present; but more guarded than any of its characters." The Financial Times
"Both Mark Strong's Gould, who has just become head of production at a leading studio, and Patrick Marber's Fox, who has secured a top star's promise to appear in a buddy movie, trot out the ritual tosh about the importance of loyalty and the unimportance of money; but their joshing suggests there's envy and anger behind the show - and the intervention of a temporary secretary proves it... Strong could suggest more edginess inside the laid-back supremo; Marber, who is best known as an author and director, is apt to signal rather than embody his rawer drives; but neither leaves you in doubt of the gap between rhetoric and feeling in their West-coast Babylon. Together, they give Peter Gill's revival the swing, aggro and verbal dash David Mamet needs." The Times
Speed-the-Plow in London at the Ambassadors Theatre previewed from 14 March 2000, opened on 16 March 2000 and closed on 22 April 2000
1st West End Production 2000 (second cast) at the Duke of York's Theatre
Previewed 21 June 2000, Opened 29 June 2000, Closed 19 August 2000 at the Duke of York's Theatre in London
The cast featured Nathaniel Parker as 'Bob Gould', Neil Morrissey as 'Charlie Fox' and Gina Bellman as 'Karen'. Directed by Rupert Goold from original direction by Peter Gill with designs by John Gunter, lighting by Andy Phillips and music by Terry Davies.
Please note that this is a re-directed and re-cast staging of the original revival production that was presented at the Ambassadors Theatre during March and April 2000.
"Nathaniel Parker is the latest incarnation of Bob Gould in this London run, the newly promoted movie executive who thrives on the knowledge that crass sells. Neil 'Men Behaving Badly' Morrissey is his brown-nosing friend, Charlie Fox, desperate to green-light a star-vehicle movie where the barrel-scraping badness of the plot is successfully obscured by the dollars it generates. Enter Gina Bellman as Karen, a temping secretary with the naivete of a Bambi understudy, who suggests that they use their influence to make a decent film. Gould sleeps with her, and shares momentarily in her delusion, until the inevitable twist comes, and cynicism wins his soul back. Twelve years on, Mamet's comments on Hollywood's shallowness seem hackneyed - and it is a tribute that this hardly diminishes the brilliance of the script. Perhaps because, like all his plays, its strength is its glorious understanding of the animal in male psychology. This holds the imagination rather than his alienated, woman-wary depiction of Karen's floundering ideals in movieland - despite Bellman's intelligent performance. Parker and Morrissey take a little while to get the pace right, but Parker's comic timing can be exquisite, and Morrissey handles their power relationship with skill. Ultimately, however, a more confident momentum is needed to recreate the Mamet magic." The London Evening Standard
"After the crackling energy of the first act, the evening fatally dips, rendering many of Mamet's clever observations flat. What should be a game of verbal ping-pong is more like a lazy Sunday cricket match. I longed for the drinks interval. There's a problem, too, with the anger of the two men. Neither Morrissey nor Parker authentically moves from benign buddy to rutting male, and their third-act fight is more like two old ladies arguing over the last cream cake in a teashop than two men fighting for their future. Bellman (the only one on stage whose American accent never wavers) fares better in transforming herself from innocent beginner to manipulative bitch, blithely using her sexual attractions to snare the egotistical and self-deluding Bobby. When she declares that she wouldn't have dreamt of sleeping with him unless he had given her project the go-ahead, his deflation and Charlie's I-told-you-so reaction provide the biggest laugh of the evening. John Gunter's minimalist sets and Andy Phillips's lighting are, like much of the production, easy on the eye but understated." The Daily Telegraph
"David Mamet has enormous fun with his material. For a start there is his perennial interest in male relationships, here displayed in his caustic depiction of Bob and Charlie, acting like big shots, behaving as they suppose men are supposed to behave, talking utter garbage. Then there is the fun to be had out of the opposing film projects: the totally cynical buddy movie versus the genuinely felt adaptation of an eastern writer's indigestible novel about radiation and the end of the world. Then there is the question of the secretary and her motives. Is she the charming ingenue that she appears to be, genuinely transported by the message of the radiation novel? Or is she an extremely canny operator who wants a slice of the action? Gina Bellman walks this tightrope beautifully and to wonderful comic effect: her big eyes wide with emotion, her hands clasped to her heart in childlike rapture, she skilfully reels Bob in. Nathaniel Parker, meanwhile, is hugely enjoyable as Bob. His hair slicked back, he radiates plausibility, and is particularly good at suggesting a man whose job it is to look as though he were listening: head slightly to one side, eyebrows raised quizzically. Neil Morrissey as Charlie is more hit and miss. He is good at suggest-ing Charlie's adrenaline- fuelled state and sweaty desperation - particularly when he thinks the dream is slipping from his grasp. There are other points, though, where he looks like a parody of a David Mamet character, delivering his lines with his knees bent and one arm out-stretched, cigarette in hand, and his violent outburst is poorly executed. The production, originally by Peter Gill at the New Ambassadors, and now re-directed by Rupert Goold, is sharp and funny, though not always sharp or detailed enough. But the sheer vitality of Mamet's portrait of an insane world is impossible to resist." The Financial Times
Speed-the-Plow in London at the Duke of York's Theatre previewed from 21 June 2000, opened on 29 June 2000 and closed on 19 August 2000
2nd West End Revival 2008 at the Old Vic Theatre
Previewed 1 February 2008, Opened 12 February 2008, Closed 26 April 2008 at the Old Vic Theatre in London
The cast featured Jeff Goldblum as 'Bobby Gould', Kevin Spacey as 'Charlie Fox' and Laura Michelle Kelly as 'Karen'. Directed by Matthew Warchus with designs by Rob Howell and lighting by Paul Pyant.
When this production opened The Guardian praised the "bravura, high-octane acting from Kevin Spacey and Jeff Goldblum" while the Sunday Express highlighted the "stand-out turn from Laura Michelle Kelly". The Times hailed "Matthew Warchus's brilliant production" and the Daily Telegraph thought that "the Old Vic has an absolute blast of a smash hit on its hands."
"Jeff Goldblum's performance as Bobby Gould, studio head of production, is a delight, full of strange, inexplicable little tics and mannerisms... Kevin Spacey, as Charlie Fox, offers a rather obvious contrast, saggy, baggy and forlorn in a linen jacket, brown trousers and beige socks that don't quite go... Praise is due, too, for Rob Howell's gorgeous sets. Gould's plush office is expensively high-tech, with curvy walls, soft spotlighting and a big, minimalist chrome desk. Yet it's simultaneously messy and bleak, with stepladders and stacks of cardboard boxes against the walls." The Sunday Times
"Director Matthew Warchus's casting of the men is spot-on, physically at least. Goldblum's lanky Gould slinks, at once cool and creepy, around the stage in sharp contrast to Spacey's baggy, brawny, untidy, frantic, coke-snorting Fox, who even attempts some sit-ups while smoking to try to calm his excitement. Spacey's pitch-perfect performance is a tour de force; he speaks fluent Mamet from the start, making sense of the babble, stopped phrases, staccato utterances and explosive thoughts." The Mail on Sunday
Speed-the-Plow in London at the Old Vic Theatre previewed from 1 February 2008, opened on 12 February 2008 and closed on 26 April 2008.
3rd West End Revival 2014 at the Playhouse Theatre
Previewed 24 September 2014, Opened 2 October 2014, Closed 29 November 2014 at the Playhouse Theatre in London
The cast featured Richard Schiff as 'Bobby Gould', Nigel Lindsay as 'Charlie Fox' and Lindsay Lohan as 'Karen'. Directed by Lindsay Posner with designs by Robert Innes Hopkins and lighting by Paul Anderson.
The multi award-winning film actress Lindsay Lohan makes her stage debut as 'Karen'.
When this production opened Henry Hitchings in the London Evening Standard noted that, "far from being the train wreck that's been gleefully predicted, Lindsay Lohan's theatre debut is competent - without being exciting." In the Daily Telegraph Dominic Cavendish said: "Last night, Lindsay Lohan, that notorious American actress and the most gossiped-about invitee to London's theatreland in ages, made her stage debut with a surprising - and smouldering - degree of style... in Lindsay Posner's workaday but watchable revival of David Mamet's evergreen, sharp-witted 1988 satire on Hollywood movers and shakers." Ian Shuttleworth in the Financial Times highlighted that it was "bad news for the vultures: Lindsay Lohan puts in a good performance in this Mamet revival.. she plays the emotions straightforwardly, and they carry across the theatre." Michael Billington in the Guardian commented that "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." Paul Taylor in the Independent thought that Lindsay Lohan turned "in a deftly delineated characterisation" in "Lindsay Posner's entertaining, if slightly underpowered, production." Dominic Maxwell in the Times explained that Lindsay Lohan "has a strong, smoky voice, a genuine if unstable star presence, and a desire to be taken seriously that fits Karen's New Age sincerity just dandy."
"Casting Lindsay Lohan in a satire about the film industry may have seemed like asking for trouble... But this production is not the freak show or car crash some have anticipated. Richard Schiff and Nigel Lindsay, as the middle aged producers who make an unsavoury bet about whether one can seduce Karen, deliver fine performances, with the latter particularly impressive as the cynical Charlie... As idealistic Karen, Lohan does fluff the odd line but, even though her casting may have been motivated by a desire to grab headlines, she brings a fitting wide-eyed sincerity." The Sunday Mirror
"Cynics beware, Lindsay Lohan can act! The Hollywood star, who has made more headlines in recent years for her off-screen antics than her on-screen performances, makes a highly accomplished stage debut in David Mamet's Speed-the-Plow, directed by Lindsay Posner. Lohan plays Karen, temporary secretary to Bobby Gould, the new Head of Productions at a major studio.... Lohan's Karen has charm and charisma, and her performance shows that she has both the talent and determination to enjoy a sustained and fulfilling career." The Sunday Express
"Lindsay Lohan's performance, in Lindsay Posner's halting, tepid production, is not polished. But nor it is embarrassing. She needed just the one prompt, and neither falls off her skyscraper heels nor stumbles into thefurniture, which is an achievement of sorts... David Mamet's rapid-fire writing doesn't make it easy. He gives all three characters just snatches of sentences, smatterings of words that overlap and interrupt, seldom allowing them a complete phrase, never mind a developed thought. Karen's ramblings about being bad and being lost, about fear and apocalypse, are as confused and inconsequential as they sound." The Mail on Sunday
"What are we left with, now that the dust whipped up by passing column inches on Lindsay Lohan's West End debut has settled? Sadly, a revival of no importance that leaves you thirsty for some theatre with a larger purpose than box-office returns. Lohan is no calamity and, on the surface, her casting makes a kind of sense: the former child actor plays Karen, a temporary secretary (naive, manipulative or both - take your pick) who gets embroiled in the power play between two wannabe big-shot Hollywood execs... Richard Schiff's Gould is too sagging and defeated a figure from the start, and Nigel Lindsay's Fox becomes an obvious thug to jack up the tension... There's no sense of discovery watching Posner's production - nobody is surprising or surpassing themselves." The Sunday Times
Lindsay Lohan in Speed-the-Plow in London at the Playhouse Theatre previewed from 24 September 2014, opened on 2 October 2014 and closed on 29 November 2014.