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The Shark Is Broken review: Poignant despite its imperfections

The Ambassadors Theatre production is written and performed with eerie accuracy by the son of ‘Jaws’ star Robert Shaw – but it sometimes struggles to stay afloat, writes Anya Ryan

Anya Ryan
Friday 22 October 2021 08:12 BST
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Liam Murray Scott as Richard Dreyfuss in ‘The Shark Is Broken’
Liam Murray Scott as Richard Dreyfuss in ‘The Shark Is Broken’ (Helen Maybanks)

How do you film a shark movie without a working shark? Well, you spend a lot of time not actually doing much. Set aboard the fishing boat The Orca, on location of the 1975 blockbuster Jaws, The Shark Is Broken narrates the misadventures of the film’s three actors, Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw, as they attempt to fill the hours spent waiting behind the scenes for their animatronic predator co-star to finally start swimming.

Written and performed by Shaw’s real life son, Ian Shaw, the play is poignant despite its imperfections. Embodying his father with remarkable precision – moustache and all – Shaw boozily stumbles around the ship, talking of his time performing in the theatre and his love of alcohol. “I’m English – we have to drink to cope with the climate”, he splutters. Their blood relation makes his final scenes, where he recites the lines his father also spoke in the film, all the more touching. A little eerie, too.

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.

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