Written by David Mamet, and directed by Rupert Goold, replacing Peter Gill who directed the original production at the New Ambassadors, the story concerns 'Gould' a recently promoted head of production at a film studio. When his best friend, 'Fox', offers him a violent prison script with the bonus of a big named star that is sure to be a hit, it seems as if both men are to make their fortune. However, Gould's temporary secretary, 'Karen', tries to persuade him to choose another film script, one about a nuclear catastrophe and the end of the world. She is very persuasive and Gould fights with his conscience, between saving his soul or doing his job, mainly producing films that will put bums on seats.
The play's main aim is to show Hollywood has it really is. The glamorous American film industry with glitz and fame is not the 'real' Hollywood. The 'real' Hollywood is one where most of the citizens are not movie stars, but producers and executives whose only interest is making money. This drama 'tries' to highlight the fact that the best film scripts do not necessarily get made into movies, it is the lure of a big star and lots of money that decides what is produced, not a scripts artistic quality.
David Mamet certainly succeeds in conveying the brutality of the Hollywood system, but unfortunately his writing is not strong enough, not witty enough, and most importantly, the characters are not convincing enough. Mamet's arguments are neither compelling nor interesting. We are subjected to three characters that babble on about their own moral, or amoral, beliefs!
I do not like to be critical of the cast as they had a difficult job with the material they had to work with. However, for the most part I found their performances lacking in conviction. Nathaniel Parker as 'Gould' is adequate as a new producer convinced that vulgar scripts and famous stars are the most important recipe for success, but Neil Morrissey looks uncomfortable as 'Fox', a down trodden producer who is trying to get his first big break in the movie industry. His agitating and nervous manner is almost too cliché! Gina Bellman as 'Karen' the naïve office temp is just too naïve to be believable!
This is what the popular press had to say….VERONICA LEE For THE DAILY TELEGRAPH says, "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." RACHEL HALLIBURTON for THE EVENING STANDARD liked the play saying , "The dialogue goes at the pace of a gun fight, the pow-pow-pow of male bravado interspersed by glorious one-liners that go straight for the groin." JOHN THAXTER for THE STAGE says the cast "happily delivers the goods". JANE EDWARDES for TIME OUT says, " In a production in which the actors perform as if they are in a television studio rather than a theatre, Morrissey especially can't drive the play as he should. All three are weighed down by their respect for a script that they have yet to make their own." THE SUNDAY TIMES says the cast "give us a performance of the surface, without landing Mamet's punch".
Speed - the - Plow, has an interesting subject matter that should have given us plenty of witty, and exciting dialogue, but it failed. I'd give this one a miss.