The Shark may be Broken but the play is brilliant!
“Awash with alcohol and ambition, three hammered sharks start to bare their teeth….”
Quote from publicity
Wowing the crowds at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2019 was this laughterful comedy of the budget disastrous story behind the making of the movie Jaws. It has long been anticipated in London. I don’t think I’ve actually seen the film (yet) apart from excerpts but during the Studio Ride at Universal Studios in Hollywood, there was this rather disappointing mock up of the great white shark. Maybe this was one of the three animatronic sharks named Bruce, which the three actors talk about in the play? The origin of the name Bruce was that of Spielberg’s lawyer Bruce Ramer, a metaphor we can all identify with except the lawyers of course!
The mechanical shark was designed in a freshwater tank but worked less well in salt water and the scenario for this play is three actors sitting around while the crew try to fix Bruce.
Robert Shaw’s son, Ian Shaw has written this richly comic play with Joseph Nixon and in The Shark is Broken, he plays his own father. The resemblance between father and son is remarkable, especially in profile, and in voice where it is uncanny. Robert Shaw in the film plays Quint a shark hunter brought in by the town of Amity Island to restore confidence in their summer beach trade. Roy Scheider (Demetri Goritsas) played the Chief of Police of Amity and Richard Dreyfuss (Liam Murray Scott) was a marine biologist. The actors were the three Rs. All three actors are so excellent and believable and many of the incidents in this play are based on records of fact.
Of the three, Robert Shaw is the most outspoken, often drunk, he frequently argues with Dreyfuss, deriding Dreyfuss’s lack of stage experience and leaving the more philosophical Scheider trying to keep the peace. Duncan Henderson’s detailed set is half a boat sitting on an ocean with waves that move and reflect the light thanks to Nina Dunn for Video and Jon Clark’s lighting. The movie was filmed on the ocean near Martha’s Vineyard for authenticity rather than the calmer waters of the Californian coast.
Dreyfuss says, “They told me not to read the book as it might confuse me.” Of course Shaw winds up Richard Dreyfuss who wants to be introduced to Harold Pinter, who directed the play Shaw wrote, The Man in the Glass Booth, by encouraging Dreyfuss to tell Harold Pinter what Pinter’s plays are all about. It is witty stuff and I can still hear myself laughing out loud when Roy Scheider says, “There will never be a more immoral president than Nixon!”
Jaws was Spielberg’s first big blockbuster released during the summer break when everybody was thinking about beach vacations. The theatre programme is an essential backgrounder to the production and a fascinating document in its own right. It explains that shooting the early scenes from the shark’s view point and John Williams’ dramatic music were so successful.
The Shark is Broken is so enjoyable, brilliantly acted and directed by Guy Masterson that I am going to award it the rarity of a Theatrevibe five star accolade. Miss it at your peril! You’ll never go in the water again.
The Shark is Broken
By Ian Shaw and Joseph Nixon
Directed by Guy Masterson
Liam Murray Scott
Director: Guy Masterson
Designer: Duncan Henderson
Lighting Designer: Jon Clark
Sound Designer and original music: Adam Cork
Video Designer: Nina Dunn
Fight Director: Yarit Dor
Running Time: 1 hour 30 minutes without an interval
Booking to 13th February 2022
London WC2H 9ND
Phone: 03330 096 690
Tube Leicester Square
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge at the
at the Ambassadors Theatre
on 21st October 2021