In Depth

Lindsay Lohan in Speed-the-Plow: was she a total car crash?

The audience 'laughed openly' and the critics say Lindsay Lohan was like a 'not specially gifted schoolgirl'

Lindsay Lohan was slammed as "out of her league" in her official stage debut in the West End last night – but most critics are agreed that it was not a total disaster.

The actress is starring in Speed-the-Plow, a satirical portrayal of Hollywood, at the Playhouse Theatre. She plays Karen, a temping secretary who tries to persuade two film producers to dump their plans for a blockbuster hit in favour of a commercially dubious story about radiation.

Last week's preview reportedly had the audience openly laughing as she forgot her lines and appeared to be reading from a hidden script on stage. Disappointed audience members took to Twitter to describe her performance as a "car crash" and "embarrassing".

But critics who attended the official opening show last night had slightly kinder – though not exalting – words for the actress.

"I'm sorry to be the bearer of disappointing tidings, but pile-up it ain't," says Simon Edge at the Daily Express. "A husky Lohan doesn't look especially confident on stage – how would she, given the burden of negative expectation? But on press night she only needed one prompt."

He admits the audience "collectively winced" for her when she forgot her line, but says that "in road-accident terms, that's no more than a broken rear light".

The Daily Telegraph's Dominic Cavendish also thinks the off-stage prompt was "just-about pardonable" given the pressure on Lohan to prove herself. He says she delivers enough of the goods to "hold her head up high".

Lohan gives it "all that she's got", says Michael Coveney at What's on Stage, but "admittedly that's not very much". She moves around with "marionette-like stiffness, hands flapping as if disconnected from her nervous system" and has "no sense of playing to the audience", he says.

The actress has defended her preview performance and said that she is doing the show because working makes her "feel happy". But The Stage's critic Mark Shenton says the West End is not there to "nurture the egos of minor Hollywood actors". He tells the BBC: "There are really qualified actors to play this part and she's not qualified. She was so out of her league."

The Daily Mail's Quentin Letts compares her acting skills to a "not specially gifted schoolgirl" and says her lack of fluency and experience on stage would by any normal measure have seen her discarded at the first audition.

But, like several other critics, Letts raises doubts about whether she should have been exposed to the West End in the first place.

"The villains of this piece are the stage professionals who have sold their art for a potage of notoriety," he says. "The theatre is not just about money. It should be about truth and truth was absent last night. Director Lindsay Posner should be ashamed of himself... This was a travesty of art. Poor Lindsay."

Michael Billington at The Guardian was equally unimpressed with the casting and performances of other actors in the show, which also stars Nigel Lindsay, and insists that Lohan "doesn't let the side down".

He says: "It is faintly ironic that a play attacking Hollywood's cautious cynicism itself here relies on a piece of ostentatious celebrity-casting. But of all the people called Lindsay involved in this production, it is Lohan who actually comes off best."

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