Theatre review: The Shark Is Broken, Assembly George Square Studios, Edinburgh

The Shark Is Broken, Assembly George Square Studios (venue 17)
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It’s hardly surprising that Ian Shaw’s new play The Shark Is Broken, co-written with Joseph Nixon and playing only on alternate days at George Square Studios, is attracting some of the most enthusiastic packed houses on the Fringe.

The Shark Is Broken, Assembly George Square Studios * * * *

Set during the 1974 filming of Jaws at Martha’s Vineyard, and co-written by and starring the son of one of the film’s charismatic stars, the great Robert Shaw, it is the Fringe show with everything, in terms of audience recognition and pulling-power; and the opening scenes attract murmurs and cheers of recognition, as Duncan Henderson as Roy Schneider and Liam Murray Scott as Richard Dreyfuss, soon followed by Shaw himself as Robert Shaw, gather on-set in the lounge of the boat to grumble and argue their way through long periods of waiting caused by the fact that the shark – the real star of the show – is always broken, and under repair.

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Beyond the simple laughs of recognition and the easy dramatic ironies, though – for Shaw and Nixon are not shy of cheap cracks about how the director Steven Spielberg is an eccentric young no-mark, Dreyfuss will never play Shakespeare, and no-one will conceivably remember this movie in 50 years’ time – The Shark Is Broken is also a taut, well-written and very witty three-hander, originally inspired by Carl Gottlieb’s book The Jaws Log, about three very different actors plying their trade under infuriating circumstances (the cold, the ocean, the delays), and considering the future of their art and their industry.

All three parts – the brilliant, drunken star, the quiet thinker, and the pushy, insecure newcomer – are brilliantly played by Shaw, Henderson and Murray in Guy Masterson’s deft and richly enjoyable production; and one thing that can certainly be said about this show is that it’s going to need a bigger theatre, some time very soon.

Joyce McMillan

Ends tomorrow

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