Speed-the-Plow, Old Vic, London
Thursday 14 February 2008
In Matthew Warchus's breakneck, intriguingly balanced revival of Speed-the-Plow, Jeff Goldblum and Kevin Spacey converge on the Old Vic stage to flesh out two of the characters in David Mamet's triangular 1988 satire on clashing values in Tinseltown.
In the first of its three scenes, the play revels in its two producers' corrupt energy. As the recently promoted head of production, Goldblum's finger-clicking Bobby Gould zig-zags round his new office with a snappy, fast-talking cool. Kevin Spacey, playing his buddy, Charlie Fox, is a nervous wreck of wired-up, hyperactive elation. He can't believe his luck. Just when he has the chance to cash in on this connection, along comes the script of a movie that's bound to be a smash. Goldblum and Spacey perform the pair's joshing, neurotically driven, intimate-wary parody of a double act with such a headlong bravura that verisimilitude is sacrificed for virtuosity. These guys would have to be psychic in their lightning anticipation to communicate at this awesome velocity and in the resulting gabble, you lose some of the joy of listening to demotic speech that is as formal in its terse, patterned way as the elaborate dialogue of Restoration comedy.
Warchus's astute, high-powered production shows great canniness in the casting of the third character, a temporary secretary who threatens to drive a wedge between the friends when she proposes a rival project. Laura Michelle Kelly makes you believe in the temp's rhapsodic belief in the book and, thanks to her air of enigmatic integrity, you're prepared to credit that her convictions are not essentially compromised by a willingness to use sex as a means of persuasion and that she is the cause of a Damascan flash of idealism in Gould. It adds fuel to the violence and scorn with which Spacey's magnificent Charlie, like a livid, spurned lover, fights to win back his man. This calculatedly warped buddy-play thus ends in the kind of thoughtful mixed mood that would never stand a chance in the Gould-Fox buddy movie.
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