Speed-the-Plow, Old Vic, London
The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other, NT, Lyttelton, London
Scarborough, Royal Court Upstairs, London

There'll be another gag along in a minute: Kevin Spacey and Jeff Goldblum play David Mamet's tale of Hollywood greed very fast and funny

Kevin Spacey almost somersaults – tumbling through the office door, panting – as the lights snap on in Matthew Warchus' new staging of Speed-the-Plow. Obviously, David Mamet's sardonic portrait of avaricious film producers gains oomph when real Hollywood stars – Spacey and Jeff Goldblum – are playing Charlie and Bobby, the Philistine duo with a blockbuster film within their grasp.

However, what's remarkable is how far Warchus pushes this modern classic towards screwball comedy and physical clowning. Here, the two studio buddies are so overexcited at the prospect of megabucks that they can't stop farcically hopping and jigging, like small boys on a sugar high. Except that Charlie is taking something a little stronger than sherbet each time he dashes into the washroom.

Spacey is terrific at startling bits of stage business. Hilariously wired, he hurls himself to the floor, having an attack of sit-ups. And he's puffing, all the while, on a cigarette. Meanwhile Goldblum is impossibly tall and wonderfully kooky. His Bobby tries to act cool: sharp-suited, towering over Spacey, and swearing he'll screw the temp, Karen. But he's insecure and ludicrously spindly, with legs like a stick insect. His darting actions – licking his lips – also have a touch of cartoon locust.

These stars are a storming double act. Still, I have seen more chilling productions. In fact, so hastily is Act One presented that large sections of Mamet's patterned dialogue get swallowed in overlapping interruptions. I found this exhilarating then wearying. The play becomes rather a bore when Laura Michelle Kelly's Karen – supposedly on a mission to convert Bobby to a purer cause – bangs on about a rambling apocalyptic novel.

Nonetheless, the closing battle over the two film projects and Bobby's soul is thrillingly potent. Spacey is by now ferocious and desperate. The final victory is not just sardonic either. Which rival might have saved Bobby from himself remains ambiguous, a matter for debate.

In many ways The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other is a lovely antidote to dramatic conflict. This quietly absorbing piece, by the avant-gardist Peter Handke, dispenses with a host of theatrical conventions. In the course of an hour and a half, 450 characters simply cross a town square. There is no storyline. They just come and go, seemingly randomly, and no one exchanges a word.

This is at once strange and instantly familiar. It's as if you – or Handke or director James Macdonald – have been sitting on a bench just watching life passing: joggers, a skateboarder, a businessman chasing a pickpocket, girls giggling. It also grows surreal. There's a man with a cradle for a hat, Moses with a stone tablet, and a panic-stricken crowd beckoned by two figures in gorgeous tribal costumes who drift by in a gondola. It's as if the square is everywhere or everywhen.

Some vignettes are too caricatured, cute or clichéd. Moreover, you might feel that Handke – he created this in the 1990s – is not so much avant-garde as indebted to Cartier-Bresson, de Chirico, Ionesco and Jacques Lecoq.

Nonetheless, Hildegard Bechtler's cityscape of raw concrete buildings is eerie, somewhere between an architect's model and a bombsite, haunted by occasional apocalyptic sirens and gales. Meanwhile Macdonald's ensemble (Sarah Woodward, Justine Mitchell, Jason Thorpe and two dozen more) are fabulously mercurial and beautifully choreographed, creating an ebb and flow that feels eternal.

Finally, I left Scarborough knowing secrets about the characters but in a state of incomprehension. Warning: it is pretty much impossible to discuss Fiona Evans' Fringe First-winning play without giving away at least two dramatic surprises. However, let me begin by saying the opening half is enthrallingly intimate in this London premiere, directed by Deborah Bruce.

A laddy teenager called Daz (Jack O'Connell) is having a naughty weekend, in a seaside B&B, with his raunchy twenty-something lover, Lauren (Holly Atkins). They're having a laugh. She's doing a jokey reverse strip-tease, twirling her belt as she gets dressed. He's bouncing on the bed to wind up the landlady.

This is twice as engrossing because you're right there with them, as if theatre-going has turned into a game of voyeuristic sardines. Punters are perched on the windowsill and the bedside tables and, in my case, under the standard lamp – where Lauren's twirling belt almost tickled my nose. Both actors are superbly natural, comical and painfully confused. The revelation, and complex moral problem, is that she is his teacher.

What I don't understand is why we then have to sit through the same script all over again, with a teenage girl and a male schoolmaster. What sex they are makes little difference ethically, and the performances are less emotionally searching the second time around. Why bother?



'Speed-the-Plow" (0870-060 6628) to 26 April; 'The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other' (020-7452 3000) to 5 March; 'Scarborough' (020-7565 5000) to 15 March

Arts and Entertainment
'Banksy Does New York' Film - 2014

Art Somebody is going around telling people he's Banksy - but it isn't the street artist

Arts and Entertainment
Woody Allen and Placido Domingo will work together on Puccini's Schicchi

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment
The sixteen celebrities taking part in The Jump 2015

TV

Arts and Entertainment
British author Helen Macdonald, pictured with Costa book of the year, 'H is for Hawk'
booksPanel hail Helen Macdonald's 'brilliantly written, muscular prose' in memoir of a grief-stricken daughter who became obsessed with training a goshawk
Arts and Entertainment
Tom DeLonge has announced his departure from Blink-182

music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

    Holocaust Memorial Day

    Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
    Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

    Magnetic north

    The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
    Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

    Front National family feud?

    Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
    Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

    Pot of gold

    Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
    10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

    From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

    While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
    Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

    'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

    Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore