Speed The Plow Playhouse Theatre Review

Sunday, November 23, 2014 0


ike many people in my generation (am I allowed to say this? Do you have to be of a certain age to refer to ‘your generation’?) I have always rooted for Lindsay Lohan. I’ve loved her ever since the Parent Trap and I’ve not lost hope that she will be all right after all. When news came out that Lindsay was going to do a play in London, I was cautiously excited. That plus the casting of Richard Schiff aka Toby from the West Wing meant that I absolutely had to see Speed the Plow.

I want to start on a positive, I didn’t personally pay for the tickets (my boyfriend did, thanks dear!) and we had excellent seats.

Right, enough about the positive! It’s unfortunate that what I got from Speed the Plow is mediocre performances in a really fundamentally uninteresting play. The first scene dragged so much, I couldn’t believe it had only lasted 35 mins when the interval began. Perhaps with more gifted actors, the material could have been elevated to something engaging, but it was not meant to be. It’s a dry play about a jaded movie executive who temporarily agrees to put his career on the line in order to ‘green-light’ a supposedly good book into a meaningful movie following a night of passion with his ambitious temporary secretary and then changes his mind again. In a word, the entire plot is reset so it ends at the same point that it started on and perhaps that is the point, but as we do not really see the reason for the changes, I didn’t buy any of the character motivation. A play does not need compelling plot or likeable characters in order to be entertaining, but if this is the case at least some killer dialogue would help. What we get is long speeches that I suppose are intended to zing with wit, but which felt flat and uninspiring and downright boring. The characters are are cardboard stereotypes, with not a drop of distinguishing personality and I did not care about or believe any of them.

But enough about the play itself, you are probably wondering about how Lindsay did and oh how wish I could say that she was a diamond in the rough and made it all worthwhile, but unfortunately I can not do that. I was nervously hoping that she would remember her lines, but she messed up the start of her big Act 2 speech and had to get a line fed to her, which in all my years of theatre going I have never before witnessed. It was incredibly awkward and though she recovered reasonably well, it did mean that I was unable to listen or concentrate for at least five minutes. And the rest of her lines she remembered, including the impassioned speech about fear and the end of the world, but that’s as much praise as I can honestly give her. Lindsay’s speech feels rehearsed and what’s worse, there is no chemistry between her and the audience, she leaves us cold and her supposed passion is wholly unconvincing. I’ve always liked her raspy voice and I liked it here, but she hides behind her hair and there is little visible emotion on her face. It’s possible that with a better material, she would have done ok, but elevating David Mamet’s uninspiring play is unfortunately beyond her skills as an actress.

Top 5 Reasons to see Made in Dagenham

Wednesday, November 12, 2014 0


was lucky to nab some last minute tickets to the new musical Made in Dagenham on Friday, I didn’t really know what to expect from it and in general I tend to prefer a small play to a big fancy musical, but this was fun and funny and a great night out that I heartily recommend.

5. The Costumes: The 60s fashion and hair is great. The factory girls all have floral dresses, matching macs and big hair that is seriously fun to behold. The real fashionista is the wife of the Ford manager, who supports the strike, puts together a petition against caning in schools and looks fabulous throughout. As the only wealthy and fashion forward character she has the most costume changes, and they really seem to have fun with her wardrobe. She is introduced wearing a wonderful orange Biba dress that plays a prominent role in the final scene, but my favourite piece is a cream trouser suit, or it could have been a jumpsuit that is early disco fabulous. I kinda wish I could see this again, just to make notes on all the clothes

4. The Sets: like the costumes, the set is by the magnificent Bunny Christie, and as a result an absolute visual feast. The number of sets changes itself is ridiculous and one of the reasons that I do enjoy a big budget musical. The centrepiece is a car seats conveyor belt and push out frames of giant model kits, but I also loved the intricacies of the O’Grady house, with its upright bed, the enormous Big Ben clock face that stands as background to all the Parliament scenes and the insanity of the American song set and the Ford Cortina advert, with all the cars, flags and glitz.

3. The Story: It’s a true story with a very engaging subject matter. Unlike the Pyjama Game, which I enjoyed but felt a bit safe and dated, this is a story about industrial action, about working class women working together to make change happen at great personal cost and sacrifice. It is feminist with a good portrayal of a range of different women, from the politician, to the wealthy highly educated (“I have a double first from Cambridge”) housewife that is looking for a purpose in life to the career unionist who refused to marry for convenience to the various factory workers, a couple of which get a fair bit of personality. Whilst the story is serious, the way it’s told is seriously funny (sorry, I can’t help myself) with so much warmth and love.

2. The Jokes + the politicians: Mark Hadfield plays a hilariously camp and clueless Harold Wilson, whose gags were my favourite and made me laugh out loud a number of times. An attempt at a dramatic exit using the wrong door is a classic for a reason and so well played here. Some jokes fall a bit flat, like the recurring one about Martin Luther King getting shot, but this is a witty show that packs a lot of laughs.

1. Jemma Arterton: I loved Jemma Arterton, as the heart of the story, her role is enormously important, and I think she pulls it off. She is very likeable, keeps the accent even in song and has a much better voice than I expected.

All in all, a fab night out. One thing I didn’t include in my top 5 is the songs itself, which are fun but are not particularly memorable or catchy. (With the exception of ‘Made in Dagenham, Laid in Dagenham’ which was in my head for the entire evening)

The Cherry Orchard Review

Tuesday, November 4, 2014 0


was running late to the theatre and had to make my way around the front row and right by the terrifying black hole like curtain that fully separates the stage from the audience. Unlike my last visit to the Young Vic, for a Streetcar Named Desire, where the seating fully surrounded an open rotating stage giving the audience a view from every direction, here there was a firm divide. I felt something akin to fear as the curtain lifted with a loud industrial noise to reveal the stark set of the nursery past its prime and the wonderful cast of characters that make up Chekov’s The Cherry Orchard.

In an attempt to see all the classics, I was very excited for this production and as is my preferred choice I didn’t actually familiarise myself with the plot beforehand.

For those similarly uneducated, the Cherry Orchard is a Russian tragi-comedy set in the eve of the decline of the aristocracy 40 odd years after the abolition of serfdom. Wealthy landowners suddenly devout of free labour and used to lavish lifestyles struggled to adapt and naturally ended up with huge debts. In the case of our protagonists, this results in the inevitable auctioning of the family house and the destruction of the eponymous cherry orchard. It’s at its core tragic, as it deals with the overwhelming grief of losing a child, losing your home and your entire purpose of being, but with certain absurd comic moments (beware the unexpected nudity!) and an intriguing and distinct cast of characters. All of this makes for thoroughly entertaining two hours.

Katie Mitchell’s naturalist style means that various characters spend some time with their backs to the audience, in a way that I found a bit obstructing and distracting. It made me aware of it and consciously think, ohh this is meant to be natural, I see, which presumably isn’t the idea? It’s a new version written by Simon Stephens, which has altogether modern turns of phrase and language, which I am unable to compare to more classic translation, or indeed to the Russian text, so any purists might be disinclined to agree, but I liked it.

The characters and plot are compelling and it even made me laugh a few times and not in the ‘ha-ha this bit is intended to be funny, even though it is actually tragic so I am going to laugh obnoxiously to show that I am learned.’ but actually funny.

Overall, I loved the play itself, though I am not sure how much this particular production added to that. I might even try and read the original. My Russian is rusty at best, but I did manage to get through most Crime and Punishment a few years ago, so it might be worth a try.