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A CurtainUp London Review
Speed the Plow
When delivering Mamet's characteristically quick-paced dialogue, Goldblum and Spacey mirror each other with seemingly intuitive repartee. With impressive onstage chemistry, their swift, exciting banter is a verbal tour de force, although the British audience may lose some of the lines in the sheer speed of the delivery. The bond and electricity between the men is especially breathtaking in the first act, when the two characters perform a mutual schmooze, both intoxicated by the expectation of a financial coup, in the form of a high grossing, box office hit.
In addition to the breathtaking dialogue, Goldblum and Spacey execute very physical performances with comic force. Goldblum's lithe movement and the ease with which he possesses the stage is appropriate as he plays Bobby Gould, the influential producer with the ear of the head of the studio and the power to green-light projects. Spacey, on the other hand, as Charlie Fox, a man struggling to reach the same levels of success as his friend, moves more frenetically and reflects his character's desperation in clinging to this unique chance.
In the role of Ruth, the na´ve "office temporary", is Laura Michelle Kelly who has recently impressed London audiences as Mary Poppins and Queen Galadriel in Lord of the Rings. A problematic part, Ruth symbolises the even more problematic crux of the play: altruistic endeavour versus sheer greed, or in other words, art versus commerce. As the proponent of making a film of a dystopian novel by an "Eastern cissy writer" which simply "won't get asses in the seats", the role of Ruth is undermined by the ridiculous gibberish of the novel, let alone its deeply uncinematic quality. Nevertheless, Kelly plays the part with sincerity, as if convincingly enthralled by the novel.
The first criticism levelled against this play is always the imbalance of the dilemma. This production tackles this by emphasising the vulnerability of Gould, who is seduced not just by the girl's attractiveness but also by his own loneliness. Although quite patently not understanding the book itself, the fear, decay and solitude but ultimate redemption appeal to Gould who is ribbed by Fox for how "lonely it is at the top". This production contains the dilemma, so that the novel represents the dialectic selfless art versus money-making for Gould only.
With excellent performances from two of Hollywood's finest actors, this production is sure to be as big a box office success as any producer could wish for. In fact, with an almost self-referential gesture, this production suits Charlie Fox's model of easy success and money making for the Old Vic theatre — a sure bet of a play, a well-known playwright and a starry cast. This is one production which will not fail "to get asses in seats".
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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