Peter Gill, playwright and theatre director
Time Out review
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Patrick Marber and Mark Strong in Peter Gill's production of David Mamet's Speed-the-plowSpeed-the-Plow

Kate Stratton reviews Peter Gill's production of David Mamet's Speed-the-plow at the New Ambassadors, Time Out, 21 March 2000

A Hollywood producer called Bobby (Mark Strong) bets his old pal Charlie (Patrick Marber) that he can lure his new temp, Karen, into bed. That much is clear. But when, after a night on the sofa, Bobby decides to junk Charlie's blockbusting buddy movie and instead film a terminally pretentious apocalypse novel, the questions begin. Maybe Karen (Kimberly Williams) bribed her way on to the temp assignment knowing that the novel was up for Bobby's consideration. Maybe she wrote it. Maybe she wants to break into the movie business. Or maybe she is Bobby's guardian angel sent to give the producer a chance to do one noble deed.

That's a lot of maybes; but it is from maybe, perhaps, and possibly that David Mamet has constructed some of his most compelling dramas. This 1988 comedy is not his best — the way Mamet tries to disorientate your sympathy is not always super-subtle — but it's crammed with comic one-liners and director Peter Gill keeps things so well paced and sharply delivered you forget you've heard it all before. 'You're a whore, I'm a whore' Charlie congratulates Bobby, salivating at the prospect of making big bucks. But, like all Mamet's big-talking little men, they're paralysed by inaction. They don't write, they don't direct -they don't even read the scripts they reject or approve.

It's the acting that makes the evening soar. As Bobby, Strong has a marvellous stillness — as if langour and tension had found an equilibrium. Only his trailed-off tones and the shapes his hands sculpt suggest the nervous energy. Kimberly Williams, blank-faced and twitchy, beautifully maintains her character's ambiguity. But it's Patrick Marber's lick-spittle yes man, his body pumping into a graceless sort of war-dance and then subsiding into grovels and genuflections of submission, who holds the stage. When Bobby tells him he's not going to 'greenlight' the buddy movie, his features move from amusement to disbelief to dumfounded horror in one seamless reaction. 'It's only words,' he says, 'unless they're true.'


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