Which is why I was rather excited to see that Kevin Spacey and Jeff Goldblum were starring in a version of Mamet’s play Speed-The-Plow at the Old Vic Theatre here in London, and even more pleased when m’lady got me tickets for a performance last week by way of a Valentine’s Day pressie.
Goldblum plays Bobby Gould, a rising film producer. His friend Charlie Fox (played by Spacey) brings him a sure-fire hit, an action film featuring this month’s latest star – but his temporary secretary Karen (Laura Michelle Kelly) recommends he should green-light a more worthy project, adapting a novel she’s very keen on. As he’s taken a bit of a shine to Karen, Bobby finds himself torn between a sure-fire commercial hit (honouring his friendship with Charlie) and a film of artistic merit (the commissioning of which might well lead to some sauciness with Karen).
The first act is fast and funny – Goldblum’s an enthusiastic tangle of limbs as he and Spacey exchange lines, and they’re surprisingly physical as they get more and more excited about their inevitable success. I knew Goldblum could do comedy, but Spacey surprised me in doing this so well – I tend to think of him as a more weighty and serious actor, but the jokey dialogue bounces along cheerfully here. The second act slows things down a fair bit (as Goldblum and Kelly discuss the novel that might become a film), but things liven up again in the third act when all three actors are onstage for the conflict caused by Bobby Gould’s dilemma and need to make a decision, though there are still laughs even here. Spacey’s very much in his element here – a genuine sense of barely-suppressed anger in his performance, and on more than one occasion the audience stopped laughing dead as the mood swung from funny to tense.
And the ending? Ah, that would be telling, but trust me when I say it’s a solid ending and perfectly logical given everything that’s gone before.
Overall, this is a very strong play, with a good cast (I’ll cheerfully admit I was drawn to it by the combination of a writer whose work I admire and the chance to see two actors I like live on stage, but Kelly does a fine job in their company, even if she is rather hindered by having to rhapsodise a book which sounds like a radiation-fixated version of The Celestine Prophecy). It’s on until April 26, and you can book tickets via the Old Vic’s website.
I heartily recommend it as a night out – and as it runs 90 minutes with no interval, you’ll be out shortly after 9pm, leaving enough of the evening remaining to get a cup of tea (or something stronger) before heading home.