Speed The Plow
David Mamet, is not a name billed as a crowd pleaser within the fairly small confines of the St. Andrews stage. Speed-the-Plow, a deeply satirical look into the flawed world of the American film industry, chronicles the ‘moral’ struggle of producer Bobby Gould who has to make the ever complicated choice between a fast-buck and the prospect of finding something ‘real’. This is classic Mamet, and by no means a simple tale of Hollywood’s capitalist hustlers. Yet in the unusual venue of Parliament Hall, a stage artistically strewn with the clutter of a new office, the lights went up on a new class of am-dram.
A play which relies almost entirely on the slick rapport between its leads Bobby Gould and Charlie Fox, director Jasper Lauderdale could not have found a better pairing in Lorenzo de Boni and Conor McKeown. The successful, but jaded Gould was artfully portrayed by de Boni, who balanced both express control and unabashed gusto in a magnificent performance. Every movement, from his arrogant sweep of his newly acquired office, to his blatant leering at his new secretary was executed with panache. McKeown as his ever loyal, if not somewhat envious colleague Fox, bounded around him with the wide-eyed intensity of a caffeine induced high. Downtrodden by Gould in the opening Act, McKeown’s deranged fervour in the final Act was a feat of unparalleled physicality. Confronting Gould’s decision to cut his chosen script, he lithely climbed onto the table, assaulting his friend physically, whilst calmly verbally attacking him.
Their dialogue bounced off each other in a spectacle akin to a verbal boxing match, their exuberance and natural comic timing offering the audience a 90 minute treat. Daria Challah, as the vapidly ambitious temp Karen, did her best to hold her own against the vibrant male characters, bringing an understated naivety to a part made infamous by Madonna in the original production.
On the page this is a hectic script, on the stage the fast pace of Lauderdale’s production left the audience reeling in delighted exhaustion. The cast deserve nothing less than hyperbole. As for the director, who paired a deft understanding for the piece with an innate comic ear, and his producer (Kate Andrews) this can only be but the start of an illustrious creative partnership.
I cannot label this play ‘unmissable’- by the time this goes to print, you will have missed it. I will however, take great pleasure in telling you all that this was a testament to student theatre at its best, and that you really should be kicking yourself if you missed out.
Every performance of Danny Boyle’s on-stage interpretation of the Mary Shelley classic Frankenstein has sold out. This was a statement that distressed many a fan of Boyle and the novel respectively, including myself. Would I never get to see what was being hailed as ‘ecstasy’ by The Guardian?! However, then came a wonderful email from the Dundee Centre for the Arts (or the DCA to you and me). Through the wonders of modern technology the DCA was offering the opportunity to see the most talked about play in London live from the comfort of our little Scottish arts centre. Cue the Hallelujah chorus.
In Frankenstein Shelley explored the symbiotic relationship between Frankenstein and his creature. In the late 19th century this idea of the double was popular within literate, made famous in novels such as The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. The sinister idea that everyone has two sides to their personality fascinates audiences to this very day. Boyle’s production was most interesting in this respect. Jonny Lee Miller and (the not at all stupidly named) Benedict Cumberbatch swap roles every other night, both playing the monster and the creature respectively and in their own unique ways. The DCA screening had Miller as the creature and Cumberbatch as Frankenstein, and both were faultless. What strikes the audience is the understanding that each have obtained from playing both roles. It enables them to truly play on the idea of the double personality, as you can tell they know what it is like to be both creator and monster.
I’d never been to a live screening of a play before and I was somewhat suspicious that it wouldn’t be able to capture that magic that being sat front-row-centre gives. Would the tension be lost? Would the intended atmosphere suffer? How would I cope without being sprayed with the actor’s saliva? But needless to say, any chance to see a production of this must be taken and in the end the screening was a pretty marvellous experience. Sure it’s a little less personal with a big old camera lens between you and the actors, but if anything was lost from the production it was hard to notice because the show was beautifully visceral and one of the best imaginings I have seen.
Speed The Plow