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Written by David Mamet

Where and When

Fringe Theatre, Fringe Club
27 June-1 July 2006


Sex, lies and celluloid

Mamet’s searing satire on the backroom politics of the Hollywood movie business played to sell-out houses and received great critical acclaim. The savagely witty dialogue and the characters’ scheming made for an unforgettable night of theatre.


Gould Rob Archibald
Fox Stephen Elting
Karen Kimberly Wright

Production Team

Director Stephen Bolton
Producer Adam West
Set Designer Ernie Corpus
Lighting Designer Andy Burt
Costumes Claire Saeki & Colette Semien
Make-up Leena Lempinen
Stage Manager Iris Eu
Publicity Photographer Dominic Nahr


“You guys have raised the bar for community theatre in this town. Everyone else is running scared!”


South China Morning Post

Tuesday, 4 July 2006 (show reviewed 30 June)

speed2Under the direction of chairman Stephen Bolton, the Hong Kong Players deliver a fast-paced, punchy and wickedly funny interpretation of this David Mamet satire on Hollywood.

As Bolton’s production notes say, Pulitzer-winner Mamet is “one of the most exacting playwrights writing today”. His dialogues are as complex and dark as his characters, making his plays a challenge for directors and actors. The Players production of Speed-the-Plow was postponed for a month so the cast – Rob Archibald, Stephen Elting and Kimberly Wright – could get it right.

And did they? The play opens with a rapid-fire exchange between film producer Bobby Gould (Archibald) and agent and long-time friend Charlie Fox (Elting), as they discuss a possible movie that’s bad but will make them rich.

In walks Gould’s temporary secretary Karen (Wright, right with Archibald).

Later, Gould and Fox make a bet: can Gould get his secretary to sleep with him for love?

So, Gould invites Karen to his home, ostensibly to discuss the merits of an art-house script. They end up in bed. Gould is convinced she loves him; Fox isn’t so sure.

What’s worse for Fox is that Gould now wants to make the art-house movie instead of the sure-fire winner. So he sets about trying to turn Gould back into the cynical greedy player he was.

Archibald and Elting are in their element, although both appeared tense at the start. As the play progressed, the actors delivered their lines without missing one dark or humorous note. Bolton kept a tight rein on the pace and masterfully shifted the power between the characters.

Kevin Kwong


The Standard

Saturday, 24 June 2006

Enter the emotional and spiritual wastelands that provide the backdrop to the work of American playwright David Mamet. They prevail in masterpieces such as Glengarry Glen Ross, Oleanna, American Buffalo and Speed-the-Plow, which will make its debut in Hong Kong by Hong Kong Players.

Written in 1988 by the now legendary Pulitzer-winning writer, the play was written at the peak of his artistic career, his first stab at cutting open the exploitative and dog-eat-dog realities of Hollywood’s movie business. Director Stephen Bolton, a self-proclaimed Mamet aficionado, came across the play in a workshop and fell instantly in love with it.

“It’s lean, there are just three characters. All the situations are clear and dramatic – lots of great conflict and dialogue”, he says.

Told with classic Mamet-esque minimalism, the all-American story revolves around movie producer Bobby Gould (Rob Archibald) and his sycophantic assistant, Charlie Fox (Stephen Elting), who revel in the prospect of producing a cheesy but lucrative action blockbuster. All is well until Karen, an office temp, (Kimberly Wright) arrives and poses serious questions that strike up the age-old debate of art versus money.

The introduction of Karen (played by Madonna in 1988 on Broadway) is a powerful plot device and refreshing in the sense that Mamet plays are usually male-dominated.

“There would be no story without her. It’d be a 10-minute play where I come in and pitch the movie and go for lunch”, Elting says.

Bolton and the male leads unanimously agree with Mamet’s caustic portrayal of the cut-throat, depraved world of Tinseltown where money talks and morals are disposable – a universal theme which also rings true in Hong Kong.

“Hong Kong is very commercial. People are obsessed with making money, they step on others for personal gain without thinking of the consequences. That’s what the play is about”, says Archibald, last seen in Hong Kong Players’ Sordid Lives.

Adds Bolton: “It makes you see these horrible things. Part of you feels disgusted and the other part of you is laughing because they are so devoid of conscience.”

Unlike the venal characters in the play, it’s the other way around for the ensemble. They do not get paid for their work and the non-profit self-reliant community theater group even manages to donate to charities every Christmas.

The non-monetary rewards prove more fulfilling for them, one being that they challenge audiences.

“Hong Kong Players continuously finds interesting pieces, not necessarily things that would fill a 400-seat theater. If we can get 80 people in there a night, we’d be happy. I am excited to have a chance to work on it”, Elting says.

“We have personal ambitions not tied to money, they can’t be. We want be known as the people who put this play on the stage.”

The play’s relentless pace and energy holds up throughout thanks to its dense, rapid-fire and cleverly thought out dialogue, delivered during many intense profanity-laden confrontations. Extra attention is paid to nuance.

“As a director, one of the big challenges is to honor the words the author writes – to give an approximation would be cheating”, Bolton says.

Elting makes a conscious effort to find the meaning behind the words. He pores over the script, where words that require more passion are capitalized, the way Mamet intended. “It doesn’t matter what it looks like on the page, as long as the audience hears it and gets it”, he says.

Bolton, who has worked on lighthearted pieces such as the Christmas panto, says he’s delighted to direct darker content for a change.

“It’s a story revealed completely through dialogue. No car chases. No dancing bears. Just situations between people. When we’re in a restaurant and there’s a couple having a fight, you can’t help listening and looking at them. It’s fascinating”, he says.

“Alfred Hitchcock once said: ‘Drama is life with the boring bits left out’, and it’s true 10 times over in Mamet’s work. It leaves nothing except the most dramatic moments, conversations and conflicts of the characters’ lives.”

Katie Lau