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Theatre Review: The Shark is Broken lacks teeth

It may be a homage to life on the set of Jaws, but the absence of a shark means the production lacks bite.

Demetri Goritsas, Ian Shaw and Liam Murray Scott in The Shark is Broken. Photo: Helen Maybanks

The Shark is Broken
Ambassadors Theatre, London,
until Jan 15

With the food and fuel shortages, not to mention the cack-handed politics, it’s fashionable to compare these times with the 1970s. That much maligned decade was, however, an exhilarating period in terms of culture: Abba and Freddie Mercury were making their names, shows such as Godspell and Evita wowed the West End, and, oh yes, a young film director named Steven Spielberg made Jaws.

Tough times often make for great shows and performers, but this time around they have, so far, been a bit backward at coming forward: the West End is still clogged up with theatrical adaptations of films, old musicals and revivals, and even the Young Vic – far from showcasing exciting ground-breaking drama, as it’s supposed to – is currently staging Shakespeare.

At least The Shark is Broken is not another stage adaptation of a film, but it is certainly a homage to one.

Ian Shaw and Joseph Nixon’s look at what life was like on the set of Jaws cut its teeth at the little Rialto Theatre in Brighton just over two years ago, then made a big splash at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Guy Masterson’s production has a number of things going for it, not least its set. The designer Duncan Henderson’s recreation of the shark hunters’ motor yacht Orca is terrific and the sea created by the video expert Nina Dunn is so realistic it even made me feel a little nauseous when it got choppy.

I must admit, too, that Ian Shaw – the son of Robert Shaw, who played the rough diamond Quint in the film – looks spookily like his late father. The downsides are the script – meandering, boring and giving little away about the making of the film that isn’t already well-known – and the imitating. I hesitate to call it acting.

The over-riding priority has clearly been to get actors who simply look as much as possible like the actors they are playing: Liam Murray Scott as Richard Dreyfuss, Demetri Goritsas as Roy Schneider, and, of course, Shaw as Shaw.

That great actor’s son seems only too well aware that while he may look and sound like his father, greatness is not hereditary. Maybe the most fundamental problem is that there is no shark: Hamlet without the Prince would probably be more fun than a play about Jaws with no shark

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