With so many adaptations of movies heading to the West End over the last few years, the latest to join the ranks is JAWS. Don't worry though, we haven't got a musical adaptation of the iconic classic to sit through (though there are worse ideas than a tap-dancing shark, I guess) - instead The Shark is Broken takes us to the making of the movie with a look at the three main actors killing time on set while they wait for Bruce the Shark to work. If you think that sounds like a disaster, you couldn't be more wrong.
After making waves at the Edinburgh Film Festival in 2019, The Shark Is Broken now sets its sights on the West End for a limited time only, Based on two accounts of what happened during those long days filming on the set of the movie, this is so much deeper than a tribute to the movie it is linked to. More a love letter to film-making and, on a bigger level, acting in general as well as the descent into madness that can come with long filming days - this has enough to whet your appetite for the full 90 minute one act run.
Walking in to the theatre, you are greeted with a small boat on the stage with brilliant projections both underneath and behind it to give the illusion that it actually is at sea. Genius use of lighting and video design help set the mood and transform the scenes while keeping the consistency of the monotany the characters speak of. Of course, this show would be nothing without sound - beginning with the iconic theme from the movie (You know the one) was an inspired move and ensured we were all gripped (and slightly terrified) from the first moment.
Demetri Goritsas plays Roy Scheider and Liam Murray Scott playing a young up and coming Richard Dreyfuss - two actors who couldn't be more different but have to find a way to get along to fill the time. They are joined by Ian Shaw playing his own father Robert. A formidable character, whether he is falling into another bottle or tearing down Richard, he is utterly mesmerising to wiitness. The chemistry between all three is what makes the show so fascinating to watch with three opposites finding unexpected things to bond over.
As well as playing his own father, Ian Shaw also co-wrote the play (along with Joseph Nixon). His own connection to the role only goes to amaze further, with a brilliant line thrown in about how he hopes his children never become actors. When the tone gets more serious, it is humbling to hear Ian as Robert talk about his own fathers legacy and how he hopes he lives to the same age he did. Ian gives a standout performance and a real masterclass into the art of characterisation.
The dialogue is incredibly witty. Often hilarious and always fast-paced (ironically considering how slow the days are meant to be). Many brilliant one-liners ensure you are never far away from a much needed laugh, though it isn't all fun. Some moving moments where they discuss their parents and alcoholism sobers the mood somewhat but gives more depth to the play.
You may think this sounds like a show that will only appeal to die-hard fans of the movie, or just people that have seen the movie. Let me blow that assumption out of the water with the surprising reveal I have never seen the movie (Yes, I know. You don't need to tell me) and it didn't stop me loving the show at all. Maybe certain references were lost on me slightly. but you don't need to have seen or even like JAWS to marvel in the beauty of this wonderful show.
More a tale of friendship and relationships in general - what connects us as people as well as divides us, this really is a stunnng piece of theatre that took me by surprise as much as if I had seen a shark in the water. With incredible acting and fantastic writing, there really is nothing broken about this brilliantly put together show. An absolute must-see, it is currently playing the 444 capacity Ambassadors Theatre for a limited run though I'm sure this isn't the last we're going to see of this remarkable show. And mark my words - when it returns, it's gonna need a bigger theatre.
The Shark Is Broken plays at the Ambassadors Theatre until January 15th 2022. Tickets from http://thesharkisbroken.com/