Peter Gill, playwright and theatre director
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Peter Hepple reviews Peter Gill's production of David Mamet's Speed-the-plow at New Ambassadors, The Stage, 23 March 2000

The second play by David Mamet to be seen in the West End so far this year, this is even more excoriating than American Buffalo in its depiction of another aspect of the American Dream.

This time the subject is Hollywood, each of the three acts being clearly defined, the philosophy, the human weakness, the tooth-and-claw fight for survival on the part of two behind-the-scenes players in the myth.

Charlie Fox brings to his new boss Bobby Gould, with whom he has scrambled up Tinseltown's greasy pole, a script he has sold to a star at a rival studio. They agree to have it green-lighted by the head of the studio, with Fox being given co-producer status.

But a new temp, on whom Gould has had his eye, is given a script to read about the end of the world, which she persuades Gould to produce instead of the prison drama brought by Fox.

The following morning. Gould announces his decision, bringing about a fearsome tirade from Fox, including a blistering explanation of the Hollywood rationale which Gould has temporarily forgotten.

Its ruthlessness is akin to Glengarry Glen Ross, but this is a more compact piece with a trio of striking confrontations between the two, the buddy attitude of Act I giving way to the hatred of Act III, with a scheming innocence in the middle.

Peter Gill orchestrates the play superbly, bringing out rasping performances from the three actors, Mark Strong as Gould, basking in his new promotion but still harbouring a basic insecurity, Kimberly Williams as Karen, whose guilelessness is disguising her ambition, and, particularly, Patrick Marber, whose acting ability proves to be equal to his writing, as the explosive Fox, firing off salvos of resentment as he fights to save the rest of his life.

© The Stage Newspaper Ltd


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