The Shark is Broken – Ian Shaw and Joseph Nixon, dir. Guy Masterson

A retelling of the famous feud on the set of Jaws. Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss we not the best of friends, as the story goes supposedly the tensions were flying high, but it also improved their acting. For us, the result is a surprisingly great movie and an entertaining play about their relationship and a broken shark. It almost seems worth it.

The Shark is Broken, source BBC News

The play, co-written by Ian Shaw, Robert’s son, premiered in Edinburgh Fringe and in 2022 moved to the West End. I found it really interesting that Shaw decided to play his own father, who notoriously was difficult on the set of Jaws. 

We meet Shaw, Dreyfuss, and Schneider on a boat, they are supposed to be shooting one of the numerous ocean scenes in the movie, but…you guessed it! The shark is broken. This is another fact that in the shooting of Jaws several mechanical sharks were used, but all of them were prone to injuries, causing unforeseeably long pauses in the shooting. And imprisoning the main actors in a confined space of the boat. 

Small space, rocking sea, and three quite strong individualities, a recipe for disaster or a really interesting play. Here we get the latter. The axis of course is the conflict between Shaw and Dreyfuss, but Schneider’s role was the one that captured me the most. Demetri Goritsas simply becomes Schneider, down to the smallest mannerisms, it is uncanny. Also, his phlegmatic calm provides a needed counterbalance to jittery Dreyfuss (a bit too jittery in my opinion) and raging Shaw.

It is one of those plays where nothing really happens, the shark is broken and they sit and talk. And yet so much happens, there is vulnerability suddenly coming out, a lot of arrogance, some sense of humor, and surprising bursts of sentimentality. All this interspersed with Schneider’s weird stories or scientific information. It is funny, weird, and slightly absurd, but also the tensions run higher and higher as Shaw goads Dreyfuss. 

When the shooting ends and everyone is released there is a sense of relief, but also a tinge of sadness, the adventure, as exhausting as it was, is over. The same for us as an audience, it is a lot of fun and one really wishes it would go on for longer. Well written, well-acted it reminds us that actors, no matter how famous are just human. And waiting for Bruce (supposedly named after Spielberg’s lawyer) to be fixed can drive anyone mad. And as much as I do not condone bullying, it was almost worth it.

2 of the 12 Plays for 2022 (you can check out my progress and my posts here)

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