I just saw Speed The Plow at The Old Vic with Kevin Spacey, Jeff Goldblum and Laura Michelle Kelly. It was wonderful. I actually left the theatre feeling euphoric.
I saw Kevin Spacey in The Iceman Cometh, also at The Old Vic, many years ago. He seemed to light up the stage every time he came on - it wasn't until fairly recently that I realised that the stage must have been deliberately lit so as to create that illusion. But still. He's a charismatic actor and I admire him for taking on The Old Vic and fundraising for it. It's such a creaky old crock, if I think about it I get the same slight tinge of embarrassment I feel whenever I hear that tiresome story about the American who bought London Bridge thinking it was Tower Bridge. Whatever. Did you see him on The South Bank Show? He seems to be a lovely man who believes in what he's doing. I was really looking forward to seeing him in this.
So. You've got David Mamet, two Hollywood stars and Laura Michelle - all for twenty-five pounds (we paid the group rate). I wondered aloud what could possibly go wrong. My companions for the evening retorted that I might be surprised at how often they begin a bad review with those words.
I was a bit wary at first because the theatre was full of American students who actually burst into applause when Kevin Spacey appeared on stage, as if they thought they were part of the live audience for an episode of Friends. But they settled down. Then there was an American woman behind us who did a special loud nasal honk whenever there was a funny line, to show that she was particularly attuned to David Mamet's cerebral style of wit. But she could honk all she liked; it was an audience-proof production. It had a cracking script with some brilliant lines in it. Rob Howells' set was wonderful. Spacey and Goldblum were amazing. The audience didn't cough much, except in the middle. Hooray for the theatre.
The seats in The Old Vic are absolutely awful, of course. It's very, very difficult to see anything - you have to bend forward and keep ducking your head to either side of the person in front of you to have any hope of following the action. The problem is not so much that there is very little rake in the auditorium - it actually seems to subside slightly in Rows D E and F of the stalls. I know it would be expensive to rip them all out but couldn't they build the stage up a couple of feet or something? At least Jeff Goldblum is very tall. That's a blessing.
But honestly, no kidding, Speed The Plow was wonderful. Go and see it if you like that sort of thing.