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Speed The Plow by David Mamet

The play, written in the late eighties but still representative of many people’s views towards tinsel town today, follows the action of 24 hours in the life of a newly appointed Hollywood movie producer, Gould...

Published on May 25th 2006.


Speed The Plow by David Mamet
Directed by Chris Honer

David Mamet’s Speed The Plow addresses the time old question: “What do you do when you have a chance to make millions of dollars on a terrible film, but then you sleep with your secretary and get talked into making a low budget artsy film instead?”

Ok, so maybe that particular question isn’t so time-old. But the bind of artistic merit versus commercial interest certainly is. And this play holds nothing back in its satirical criticism of Hollywood’s persistent decision to sell out.

The play, written in the late eighties but still representative of many people’s views towards tinsel town today, follows the action of 24 hours in the life of a newly appointed Hollywood movie producer, Gould, played convincingly by Martin Ledwith. Gould is brought a script by his long time pal Fox - a terrible action script set in a prison, but sure to make the pair millions thanks to the involvement of Hollywood big hitter Dougie Brown.

Before the two can meet with the elusive executive Mr Ross to secure the film however, Gould’s temporary secretary convinces him to scrap the prison script and instead make a film based on an artsy book entitled ‘The Bridge’ – a book about fear, humanity and the end of the world due to radiation. Yes, radiation.

The three strong cast do justice to Mamet’s quick fire dialogue, delivering lines and quips with a confidence befitting the context of the play. The play is performed in American accents – an aspect of performance that could so easily render the play tiresome and ridiculous, but thankfully the accents were convincing and natural, and didn’t seem to falter throughout.

Rachael Hayden plays the temp Karen as naïve and gentle, and most of all, sincere. Her enthusiasm for ‘The Bridge’ seems genuine, as does from her earliest appearance, her affection for Gould. When Gould asks Karen the question --"Would you of gone to bed with me, I didn't do your book?” Hayden appears genuinely pained and remorseful, not the ambitious, power hungry whore that Fox depicts her as to Gould.

Jamie Lee’s Fox is the perfect Machiavellian villain, at first sycophantic and alluring but ultimately willing to show that he will do anything to get his hands on the money that he feels he is owed, and his threat to kill Karen if she ever returns could easily be believed, such is the strength of his ambition in the final scene.

Martin Ledwith as Gould managed to portray very well the conflicts within his character – managing to appear nearly every inch the misogynist bastard when alone in the patriarchal arena with Fox in the first scene, but showing glimpses of his vulnerability and weakness that eventually become prevalent, culminating in Gould being curled up onthe floor while a crazed and money hungry Fox literally kicks him when he’s down, in the final scene of the play.

This play is a great credit to Chris Honer and the Library Theatre, which has recently announced its 2006/07 season. For details, click here.

Gould is not portrayed as a sensitive victim of commercialism, merely as weak. He does not seem to agree to make the Radiation film because he loves and understands the book, but because he feels understood and comforted by his secretary Karen, who reaches out to him through the book. Logical then, that the book is called ‘The Bridge’.

Gould is a trapped man. Weak and easily impressed upon, he becomes the battle ground for two competing ideals – money and truth – and is used by those around him for the power that his role affords him. This sense of imprisonment is echoed in the vertical bars that form the frame of Gould’s office window, as well as in the subject matter of the terrible prison movie. There is a glimmer of hope when Gould decides to reject the film and sees through Karen a way out (a bridge), but inevitably in the end the bridge is destroyed and Gould, in a depressingly inevitable way, succumbs to Fox, green lights the prison movie and thereby sentences himself to be consumed by the shallow and capitalist values of the industry.

This is an interesting and enjoyable play, that very neatly answers most of the questions that it raises but provides a sometimes hilarious, sometimes tragic observation of the nature of our arts scene, and rips the tinsel very dramatically away from the town.

This play is a great credit to Chris Honer and the Library Theatre, which has recently announced its 2006/07 season. For details, click here.

Jayne Robinson
Email me

The Library Theatre,
Central Library,
St Peters Square,
Manchester,
M2 5PD

t: 0161 236 7110

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