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Review Roundup: THE SHARK IS BROKEN on the West End; What Did the Critics Think?

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The production runs in the West End for a strictly limited season until 15 January 2022.

Review Roundup: THE SHARK IS BROKEN on the West End; What Did the Critics Think?

The Shark is Broken is now running at the Ambassadors Theatre in the West End. Co-written by Robert Shaw's son Ian Shaw and Joseph Nixon, this brilliantly funny play, directed by Guy Masterson, reveals the hilarious and moving behind-the-scenes drama on Steven Spielberg's blockbuster movie JAWS.

Ian Shaw (War Horse and Common, National Theatre) plays his father Robert Shaw alongside Liam Murray Scott as Richard Dreyfuss (reprising the role he performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2019), and Demetri Goritsas (ear for eye, Royal Court; Black Mirror, Netflix) as Roy Scheider.

Martha's Vineyard, 1974: shooting on 'Jaws' has stalled. The film's lead actors - Robert Shaw, Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss - are stuck on a boat, at the mercy of foul weather and a faulty mechanical co-star. Awash with alcohol and ambition, three hammered sharks start to bare their teeth...

The production runs in the West End for a strictly limited season until 15 January 2022.

Let's see what the critics are saying...


Marianka Swain, BroadwayWorld: But at heart, this is still an intimate three-hander, and it's blessed with a note-perfect cast. Demetri Goritsas as the amusingly straitlaced Scheider, and Liam Murray Scott as the needy but swaggering Dreyfuss, both play off Shaw magnificently. It's definitely safe to get back in the water - in fact, you should dive straight in.

Rachel Halliburton, ArtsDesk: The three actors complement each other well; Goritsas's dry delivery provides a good contrast to the more mercurial trajectories of Scott and Shaw. One running joke is that each actor considers himself to be the movie's star, and the bickering increases with the levels of inebriation. Shaw is the whisky-dependent alcoholic who has hidden bottles liberally around the set. As the inhibitions drop away he hits more and more mercilessly at Dreyfuss's insecurities - in another joke enhanced by hindsight he drily mocks the actor's aspirations that he might ever appear in a Shakespeare.

Patrick Marmion, Daily Mail: Demetri Goritsas, as Scheider, has what Shaw called 'the look of incorruptibility'. And while Liam Murray Scott is less of a lookalike, as Shaw's whipping boy Dreyfuss, he's still a furry-faced innocent whose lapse into cocaine-induced paranoia is tenderly soothed by Shaw reciting a Shakespeare sonnet. Some short scenes are obviously redundant, but Shaw Jr is absolutely spellbinding in his delivery of a warts-and-all eulogy to his long-lost old man.

Ryan Gilbey, The Guardian: Far from being maudlin, the tone of the show is boisterously comic. Shaw has said he worshipped his father, and it shows: he gets the shark's share of the gags. Liam Murray Scott captures the twitchy Dreyfuss but the hardest task falls to Demetri Goritsas as the stolid Scheider, about whom the writers show little curiosity. His co-stars brag and fret about their careers but you would never know from watching this that he was already an Oscar nominee for The French Connection.

Anya Ryan, The Independent: But while Shaw is impressive, our 90 minutes trapped on this boat feels slow and laboured. Bored out of their minds, the trio bicker and bother each other. They play cards to pass the time, but the games, inevitably, end in more fighting. Whether deliberate or not, these scenes feel samey, and the repeated arguments between Shaw and Dreyfuss quickly become tiresome. "We may well be here for the rest of our lives", they say. At times I feel the same.

Sam Marlowe, iNews: Co-written with Joseph Nixon, Shaw's play, in which he stars as his own father, is a vividly diverting portrait of three actors battling boredom, and each other, while they wait to shoot their next scene in a seemingly cursed project that, for all their misgivings, will turn out to be a masterpiece. Slickly directed by Guy Masterson, it's revealing and richly funny.

Matt Wolf, LondonTheatre.co.uk: Long after yet another reference to clam chowder and an improbable three-way debate as to what Jaws is really about (Shaw's comically to-the-point answer sounds as if it could have come from Harold Pinter, who is himself invoked in passing), the evening belongs to two generations of Shaws: one taken from view well before time only to live on in the homage paid to him by a son whose mixture of respect and affection is in no way mechanical but, unlike the difficult Bruce, snaps immediately to attention and stays there. The shark may be broken but the Shaws own the play.

Kay Johal, London Theatre Direct: Whilst all three actors should be applauded for their roles, it is Shaw who steals the show. He seamlessly moves between laughter and vulnerability breaking the fourth wall with comfort, particularly when touching upon the topic of suicide. Towards the end, Shaw says the lines, as his father did in the final scenes, which was a very emotional and moving moment. The stillness in the water reflects the stillness in the theatre, highlighting the depth of the writing.

Clive Davis, The Times: Written by Ian Shaw and Joseph Nixon, the piece gives us a glimpse of the tensions behind the three lead actors - Richard Dreyfuss, Roy Scheider and Robert Shaw - as they while away the time in the cabin of a fishing boat waiting for Spielberg's crew to sort out yet another fault with the mechanical shark used on the shoot.

Francis Nash, The Upcoming: This trivial matter aside, though, nothing else is faulty about The Shark is Broken. Forget pantomime - theatregoers would do well to celebrate a post-Covid Christmas by taking themselves to the Ambassadors Theatre this Christmas instead.

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