Thursday, 28 October 2021

REVIEW: The Shark is Broken at the Ambassadors Theatre

I was unable to get a ticket for The Shark is Broken when it played Edinburgh Fringe in 2019 but I did see Ian Shaw’s very funny companion piece of Runyon short stories, Guys Dolls and Pies so I knew I had missed a treat. It’s been a long wait but finally, this brilliantly funny and insightful look into the world of the three main actors on the iconic Jaws movie has finally made its way to the West End for a short season offering a short sharp antidote to Lockdown and a reason to get out to live theatre.

It is very much of its time and only an older generation will easily recognise the period setting music that fills the auditorium as you take your seats before the show. The 1974 hits of David Essex, Paper Lace, Suzi Quatro, The Rubettes, and ABBA takes us back to the time the film was being made by a twenty-five-year-old Steven Spielberg off the coast of New England. The brilliant set design by Duncan Henderson and amazing video projections by Nina Dunn transport us into a small boat on the sea with waves lapping its sides and seagulls flying overhead where the film’s stars rest between takes, The familiar Jaws theme opens the show, and you really hope that the shark will make an appearance amongst the waves but of course, it does not because “Bruce”, the shark, is broken again. As the unseen crew offstage try to repair it or replace it, we eavesdrop on the banter between the three familiar faces as they wait in the boats small cabin to start shooting again. 

Ian Shaw, the son of actor Robert Shaw who played the shark hunter Quint, plays his father and co-wrote the piece with Joseph Nixon based on his father's diaries. He is the dominant figure in every scene, cajoling and bullying the others to fill the time while drinking heavily from whisky and rum bottles concealed around the boat. His two set-piece speeches when he tells of Robert Shaw’s alcoholic father (the actor’s grandfather) and his speech from the film about surviving the attack on the USS Indianapolis in which many crew were eaten by sharks are both spellbinding highlights of the show.

Opposite him, Liam Murray Scott plays the younger insecure Richard Dreyfus who played the marine biologist Matt Hooper in the film and is constantly put down by Shaw’s sneeringly addressing him as boy. Still a relative newcomer and not the first choice for the part he only took the part because he thought he was so poor in his latest film The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz and feared he might not get another part. It makes him an easy target for Shaw biting comments. Demetri Goritsas plays the more level-headed peacemaker between the two, Roy Scheider who played police chief Martin Brody in the film. They make a powerful complementary trio bouncing off each other and making very passable impressions of the original stars arguing about who is the star of the film.

The script enjoys the power of hindsight as they chat and muse about the world and their industry. Spielberg (that crazy kid) is talking about a film about an alien hero, the next global disaster to wipe out human life but not shark life will be global warming, there will never be a more immoral president than Nixon, speculation about whether any of Robert Shaw’s nine kids would be actors, no one would ever make a sequel to Jaws and chat about how to talk to Harold Pinter all provide good jokes that flow naturally from the conversation and reinforce the tense relationship between the men and their insecurities. 

Ultimately, they speculate that no one will be talking about this film in forty years’ time and yet here we are 45 years after its release, the film is still admired for its masterful suspense building cinematography from the point of view of the shark and THAT music. This ninety-minute production provides insight with a great deal of humour and masterful performances into its making of a film that went on to win three academy awards and was nominated for Best Picture and makes you think about watching the original one more time.

Review by Nick Wayne

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: Circle, Row D | Price of Ticket: £23
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