Review Round Up: The Shark is Broken, Ambassadors Theatre

We round up the reviews for The Shark is Broken which is making its West End debut at the Ambassadors Theatre.

(c)Helen Maybanks

WhatsOnStage: **** “This is a highly original 90 minutes, packed with wit, insight and pop culture references. It will resonate massively with Jaws fans of course (Shaw meticulously recreates one of his father’s key speeches from the screenplay and it’s pretty heart-stopping if you’re familiar with the original). More generally, and the reason why it could probably sustain a lengthier run than its projected 14-week season, it’s a fascinating peep into film making behind-the-scenes. It’s also deliriously funny.”

The Metro: ****

The Sunday Mirror: *****

The Daily Mail: **** “Ian nails his dad’s roguish charm and the crowning glory is his speech in Jaws about being sunk in shark-infested waters in World War II — which Shaw wrote and performed for Spielberg on set.”

The Guardian: *** “Too much of the humour hinges on 21st-century hindsight: predictions about Nixon being the worst president the US will ever have, or that Jaws will sink without trace. Scheider swears he won’t appear in the sequel (he did), and Robert scoffs at the subject of Steven Spielberg’s next picture: “Aliens? What next, dinosaurs?” More effective is Shaw’s delivery of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 29, in which the phrase “heaven’s gate” alludes to the shark-infested waters on the Hollywood horizon.”

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.”

The Times: *** “No disrespect to LP Hartley, but the past is not a different country and they really don’t do things so differently there. In the case of the Shaw family they even look the same. Ian Shaw, 51, has turned up on the West End playing his late father, and the facial and vocal similarities are striking. The Shark Is Broken describes what happened on set during the filming of the 1975 Steven Spielberg thriller Jaws.”

Variety: “Both patient Demetri Goritsas (as a painstaking Roy Scheider) and high-energy Liam Murray Scott (as a self-obsessed, neurotic Richard Dreyfuss) prove themselves considerably more than lookalikes as they convincingly talk their way through Guy Masterson’s production, a hit from the 2019 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The show depicts the men’s frustrations on the increasingly over-budget movie, which went 104 days past schedule thanks to the demands of a relatively new kid on the block, Steven Spielberg. But it’s Shaw junior who delivers the biggest jolt: Costumed as per the movie, he is a dead ringer for his father.”

Evening Standard: ***** “Never mind the shark – in this show about the troubled shoot for classic blockbuster Jaws, it’s Ian Shaw that you need to see. Playing his father, Robert Shaw – aka Quint, the world-weary shark hunter – he gives what is undoubtedly one of the best theatrical performances of the year. Flitting between machismo and vulnerability, he delivers a hilarious and moving performance that’s exhilarating to watch, in a show that begins as a rollicking comedy before turning into something deeper.”

Sunday Express: ***** “Staged slickly and and simply, with a cross-section of the boat surrounded by projections of ocean and sky, it’s intensely atmospheric”

British **** ” That being said, what we were given was a collection of funny, interesting, and moreover thought-provoking vignettes; a chance to peek behind the curtain and explore the realities of waiting for a mechanical shark to work, so you can ‘act’ alongside it.”

The Arts Desk: **** “This shark-tooth-sharp comedy provides a behind-the-scenes glance at “Jaws””

The Sunday Times: **** “Do you need to have seen Jaws to fall in love with this beautiful miniature of a play? My companion was the perfect guinea pig because, unlikely as it may seem, she couldn’t recall ever watching Steven Spielberg’s classic 1970s thriller. And yet for the next 90 minutes she was every bit as intrigued as I was.”

Time Out: *** “Shaw’s own performance as Robert – the likeness is uncanny for anyone who remembers him as Quint in the film – is definitely the highlight. He plays him as sodden and volatile, clearly an alcoholic and tough to be around, even if this production sidesteps full-blown gloom in favour of an uneasy camaraderie between this acting trio. All of which is amusing to witness even if it never feels especially incisive in its observations about human weakness, male egos and relationships between men who are never sure if they’re comrades or rivals.”

London *** “In fact, Ian Shaw’s performance – spiky, articulate, beautifully spoken in the elevated style of his richly voiced dad – is the highlight of a play that coasts a lot on sheer novelty value to get through some notably dodgy writing. A longish 90 minutes, no interval, the play has barely begun before we get a wearying fusillade of reports as to what Steven Spielberg’s film isn’t: it’s not Shakespeare, we’re told, nor The Great Gatsby (why should it have been either?). At the same time, the recalcitrant Bruce prompts the tired reflection that humankind can put people on the moon but can’t get a full-size, pneumatic shark to work: that’s the sort of observation I thought had been retired in 1975, the year Jaws was released. (An impressionable, beach-loving teenager at the time, I remember the film, and the terror it generated that summer, vividly.) 

The Stage: **** “Entertaining and occasionally revelatory slice of backstage movie history.”

The Telegraph: **** “This play, inspired by the filming of Jaws and starring Ian Shaw as his father Robert, is a small-scale delight.”

Broadway World: **** “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.”

iNews: **** “Occasionally, cultural references feel crowbarred-in, and some of the ironic gags are a little on-the-nose (on hearing that Spielberg has a movie about aliens lined up, Shaw scoffs, “What next? Dinosaurs?”) But all three of these men in a boat are uncannily well-observed, and this salty yarn is great fun.”

The Shark is Broken will play at the Ambassadors Theatre  until the 13th February. To book tickets visit: Love Theatre.comTheatre Tickets Theatre Direct, From the Box Office or Last

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