STOP PRESS - THE SHARK LANDS IN LONDON'S WEST END!
THE DAILY JAWS - 27/07/19 - bit.ly/SBReviewDailyJaws
You're gonna need a bigger theatre! When previews for The Shark Is Broken were announced, The Daily Jaws was always going to be there and we were blown away. In a word, The Shark Is Broken is phenomenal. From the moment the JAWS theme fills the darkness and we see the three familiar silhouette's pass on front of the stage, the hairs on the back of your neck are paying full attention to The Shark Is Broken.
When the lights rise on stage we are revealed to be onboard the Orca, in between shooting scenes of JAWS with Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss.
The setting and the costuming is spot on, and if at first Duncan Henderson (Scheider) and Liam Murray Scott (Hooper) don't look the spit of the iconic JAWS actors, they have their mannerisms and speech so down to pat that you'll be convinced at the end you have just watched Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss on stage.
The huge draw to this was always Ian Shaw (who is also one of the co-writers of the play based on the diaries of his dad, Robert Shaw) and he cleverly isn't on stage when it opens, creating a real sense of anticipation.
But when he does appear on stage, it is electric, a JAWS-dropping experience - he just draws you in. It's hard not to be convinced that Shaw isn't looking or talking directly to you when he delivers some of his dialogue.
Roy reads the paper, while Robert a novel while Dreyfuss moans - about pretty much everything! Duncan Henderson plays Brody as the straight man to Dreyfuss and Shaw's feuding double-act. Perhaps not hard in a theatre with a capacity of only 100, but either way it feels like you are the fourth person sat at the table on the Orca.
The three actors are amazing for the 75 minute duration of the play - it certainly doesn't feel that long - and they bounce of each other wonderfully. You get a real sense of the camaraderie and conflict from being stuck on the Orca under the masterful direction of Guy Masterson.
Ian Shaw delivers his scene-stealing version of his father's legendary 'Indianapolis speech'.
The action may be confined to the iconic Orca table but it's a stroke of creative genius, showing that it's not just Steven Spielberg that delivers a satisfying JAWS.
It's a fantastic spin on the making of JAWS we think we all know from The Jaws Log by Carl Gottlieb and the documentary, The Shark is Still Working. There's lots of humour, both based around knowledge of the film and popular culture. It has a very meta feel to it, which gets some great laughs but never feels out of place or forced.
It also has lots of emotional heart as well, with one scene in particular effective as - just for a moment - you weren't sure if it was Robert Shaw talking about his dad or Ian Shaw on stage talking about his dad. Mesmerising stuff, sticking in your mind like the lump in your throat.
It's a JAWS de force, intimate yet epic in scope at the same time. It also demands to be seen by a much wider audience.
Let's hope that the shark isn't so broken that they can't take it on tour after they have finished at the Edinburgh Fringe. (Dean Newman - The Daily Jaws - 27/07/19)
THE SUNDAY TIMES - 05/08/19 - bit.ly/SBReviewTimes
This anarchic behind-the-scenes look at the filming of the 1975 blockbuster JAWS begins, as it really must, with that music. Ooo-a, ooo-a, ooo-a. Da da da da, da da da da. The lights come on and there, in a snug red-leather banquette, are two men who look as if they just might be Richard Dreyfuss and Roy Scheider. They are all at sea and they are not happy.
"They can put a man on the moon," Dreyfuss shouts, wildly manic, hands frantically soothing his chin, "but they can't make a mechanical fish that works!"
It seems that Bruce, the shark, is not working again. Dreyfuss, young and most definitely not a boat person, is furious. Why, he demands, can't they use a real shark? Why not find a tame shark? Scheider, laconic as ever, points out that you can't train a shark. How would you punish it? If it ate a person, would you hit it on the nose?
The twinkly eyes that are Robert Shaw join them: erudite, very English and just, perhaps, even this early in the day, a little drunk. The three of them look at each other and realise that they are stuck here, three unhappy men in a boat, in the Atlantic Ocean, waiting for a fake shark to be fixed. "Why can't we make this in a pool in Beverly Hills?!" Dreyfuss shouts.
This razor-sharp 75-minute play was written by Ian Shaw, son of Robert, with his friend Joseph Nixon, inspired by the detailed diaries kept by his father. The son doesn't hold back. It's only a matter of seconds into the play that Robert snags a bottle of whisky and starts to down it.
Steven Spielberg, who directed the film, referred to the Dreyfuss-Shaw feud and we see it in all its raging pettiness. Shaw plays his father with panache, and Duncan Henderson as Scheider and Liam Murray Scott as Dreyfuss feel authentic.
They banter, play cards, fight about booze, talk about their dads. No one is content. Dreyfuss wants to play Shakespeare, Shaw wants to write ("but I'll need to quit drinking") and Scheider just wants to not cause too many waves.
and soon. (Ann Treneman - The Times - 05/08/19)
DAILY TELEGRAPH - 06/08/19 - bit.ly/SBReviewTelegraph
Something unexpectedly profound and emotionally serrated lurks below the apparently frothy surface of this dive behind the scenes of the making of JAWS.
Rewinding to the summer of 1974, when the demanding, fought location shoot was underway on the water's off Martha's Vineyard, 'The Shark Is Broken' offers more than just mouth-watering bait for fans. It's an eye-moistening filial homage: Ian Shaw, son of Robert, who played the pivotal role of shark-hunter Quint, is reincarnating his dad - who died in 1978, three years after the movie came out, when he was only eight.
One of nine offspring by three marriages, Shaw fills in his late 40's, as was his hell-raising progenitor when Steven Spielberg embarked on a project the transformed his own career and Hollywood too, heralding the era of the monster summer blockbuster.
When he joins Duncan Henderson as Roy Scheider and Liam Murray Scott as Richard Dreyfuss in the mock up of the ship' cabin , (the Orca, we assume) to jaw-jaw while technicians fix the unreliable dummy shark, it's as if the star himself has turned up - the facial features are so similar: the cheek bones, the far away look, the moustache (obviously). Shaw has read his father's journals, scoured clippings, devoured sources such as The Jaws Log by screenwriter Carl Gottlieb, but has felt free to add and embellish. The result is that he has given his pater (and thereby himself) many of the best lines, and the hour rather feels like a speedboat voyage round his old man. All the same, it's hardly a flattering portrait.
Shaw was the biggest name of the trio at the time (having been a Bond baddy, Henry VIII in A Man For All Seasons and more besides). Here, drinking like a fish and scenting blood too, he throws his weight around at the expense of Dreyfuss's ego, calling him ‘boy', scoffing of the younger actor's yen to play Shakespeare and his hunger for fame while struggling to get a grip on his own (modestly allocated) lines.
The snark is very entertaining (think Three Men In A Boat meets Satre's Huis Clos). Even if their animosity has been exaggerated (Dreyfuss, who played marine biologist Hooper, has been quoted as saying how well they bonded) it's a matter of record that the younger man once impulsively threw Shaw's drink overboard; a miss-step that results here in a frenzied attempt at strangulation.
Scheider acts as peacemaker to this quasi dysfunctional father-son dynamic; the sense that Robert Shaw was dealing with primal submerged issues is reinforced when he alludes to his own father, an heroic doctor who battled icy seas in the Orkneys and First World War demons - committing suicide when he was a boy. You could call this ‘Flaws', it's so astute about the handed-on damage in men.
Henderson brings beady-eyed watchability and a striking resemblance too to the Scheider role while Scott, with the right straggly sea-faring beard, kvetches enjoyably about the cold, the local clam-diet and being a Jew out of his comfort zone. "Do you really thing people are gong to be talking about they is 40 years time?" Shaw asks, as a squall of irritation subsides into becalmed boredom. Very droll. Venue-wise, I think they could use a bigger vessel for this dink fine hit about a Hollywood leviathan. Who knows, perhaps it'll even spawn a sequel. (Dominic Cavendish -Telegraph - 06/08/19)
BROADWAY BABY - 27/07/19 - bit.ly/SBReviewBroadwayBaby
Part insider look at the making of the film JAWS and part musings on what constitutes an artist, The Shark is Broken, written by Ian Shaw and Joseph Nixon and directed by Guy Masterson, is exactly what the characters in the play are grappling with: A commercial piece of art that, despite being commercial, has something of immense value to offer to its artists and audiences.
A meditation on the idea of what constitutes art and what is the role of the artist in our society
Set on the film set of JAWS, the play follows the conversations between actors Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, and Robert Shaw while they were stuck out to sea on the movie's boat, The Orca, waiting for the mechanical shark Bruce to actually work.
The play, which begins as a humorous look at three different actors at different stages of their careers as they drink and chat with each other to pass time, quickly becomes much more; a meditation on the idea of what constitutes art and what is the role of the artist in our society. Richard Dreyfuss, played with comedic gusto by Liam Murray Scott, complete with the neurotic mannerisms we see in the film, is on a quest for fame. While Scheider, played by Duncan Henderson, as the stoic, if not so bright, straight man, seems satisfied to take the work where he can get it. The two are on opposite extremes of the artist divide. Then enters Robert Shaw, played with humor and immense emotional depth by the late actor's son Ian Shaw.
Robert Shaw's character is portrayed as the elder statesman of the group who's career has had both successful artistic experiences and commercial success. Shaw, however, is looking to move on from performing; instead interesting in becoming a writer.
The play, under the masterful direction of Guy Masterson, zips along at a clipped pace, alternating between punch lines and poignant moments as we get to watch casual banter between the three actors become inspiration for some of the classic scenes in the beloved film JAWS. All three actors give standing ovation-worthy performances, at first brilliantly mimicking the attributes of the famous actors they play, and then evolving beyond superficial imitation into a place where actor and character become indistinguishable.
But the true emotional heart of the story is learning that Robert Shaw actually wrote the iconic Indianapolis monologue from the film. As performed by Robert's son Ian, the audience gets to see the son help the father achieve his dream of being recognised for the talented writer he was. The Shark is Broken deserves a long run well beyond the Fringe! (Stephen Svoboda - Broadway Baby - 07/08/19)
REVIEWSPHERE - 08/08/19 - bit.ly/SBReviewsphere
The shark may be broken, but make no mistake about it, as Robert Shaw (played by his real-life son Ian) says to his fellow cast members Roy Scheider (Duncan Henderson) and Richard Dreyfuss (Liam Murray) after an uninspiring meal in a local seafood restaurant, "that shellfish will get you in the end, literally".
And fear of extinction (personal and professional, climatic and nuclear) is the recurring theme which continually bubbles under the surface comedy of Ian Shaw and Joseph Nixon's tight as a reef knot script directed with subtle precision by Guy Masterson.
Entering to the ominous strings of John Williams' iconic score, the tetchy trio huddle round the table of the ill-fated Orca the cabin fever-inducing design fittingly reminiscent of an old-fashioned snug to chew the cud about art and religion, war and politics.
"There can never be a more immoral president than Nixon," says the square of jaw and mind Brodie, drawing one of many prolonged bursts of laughter during one of many interminable delays in what is disparagingly referred to as the retarded offspring of Moby Dick and The Enemy of the People.
Each actor boasts that their character is the most important and in so doing compete against one another in a series of alcohol-fuelled games (board, card and mind) of one-upmanship. But as their insecurities and fears puncture their life jackets of bravado, it becomes clear that the mechanical artist affectionately known as Bruce, whose enormous frame dominates the poster and reduces their names to the bottom line of an eye exam, is the star.
An undeniable fact underscored with pin-dropping poignancy as Shaw recreates his father's chilling monologue about the sinking of the USS Indianapolis whose doomed crew recoiled in horror as they were encircled by the "lifeless eyes" of imminent and eternal death.
Through a glass darkly, Robert Shaw slurs that it's easier to make a good movie of a bad book. But what of a good play of a good movie? Well, the writers have triumphed where many have failed, as have the impressive cast who not only bear a striking resemblance to Messrs Shaw, Scheider and Dreyfuss in look, gesture and voice, but like the appreciative audience appear to be having a whale of a time in a show which is likely to make a big splash in Edinburgh and beyond. (Peter Callahan - Reviewsphere - 08/08/19)
THE ARTS DESK - 10/08/19 - bit.ly/SBReviewArtsDesk
Anyone who has seen JAWS, and that probably means all of us, will know that it features a shark. Not a real one, of course, but in pre-CGI days, a mechanical one. What is perhaps less well known is that Robert Shaw, who played shark hunter Quint, was keeping a diary during the filming off Martha's Vineyard in 1974.
It was a fraught shoot. Bruce - the nickname given to the model shark - often broke down and bad weather affected the shooting calendar, as did tourists and other boat owners drifting into shot.
But mostly, the friction was between Shaw and his younger co-star Richard Dreyfuss (with the laidback Roy Scheider often acting as peacemaker). Now Shaw's son Ian - one of nine children from Shaw's three marriages - has fashioned an entertaining play from the diaries, in which he plays his own father, who died in 1978 when Ian was eight.
He's the spit of his father, and speais with his clipped delivery. Duncan Henderson is a wonderfully serene Scheider, while Liam Murray Scott parlays Dreyfuss's nervy cockiness.
Shaw junior (writing with Joseph Nixon) neatly and often comically captures the actors' egos and anxieties, and their competitive spirit as they play cards and lay silly bets. None of them particularly rates Steven Spielberg, JAWS' director, and they all think the film will, er, sink without trace.
The play, tightly directed by Guy Masterson, is more than mere industry gossip, as Shaw tackles his father's alcoholism and the effect that fathers have on their children. This play deserves a life beyond the Fringe; yes, they're going to need a bigger theatre. (Veronica Lee - The Arts Desk - 10/08/19)
DAILY BUSINESS MAGAZINE - 12/08/19 - bit.ly/SBReviewDailyBusiness
Set on the small boat where three actors spent several weeks waiting for a mechanical shark to function as it should do, this is a wonderful behind-the-scenes insight into the making of 1970s movie JAWS and the relationship between its three main actors.
However, you neither have to have seen the movie nor know anything about the actors to appreciate Ian Shaw (son of Robert who played Quint, the boat owner, in the movie) and Joseph Nixon's excellent writing which is superbly delivered by a fantastic cast.
The play opens with Chief Brody and Hooper the characters are named after the role's they played in the movie, rather than the actors that played them waiting for filming to resume.
Hooper, (Richard Dreyfuss in the film), is the young upstart, wisecracking as he bemoans the delays and the inadequacies of the script, while Brody (Roy Scheider in the film) has the been there, bought the T-shirt resignation of someone whose career is already well established and for whom the movie is just another pay-check. The rapport between Duncan Henderson as Brody and Liam Murray Scott as Hooper is instantly established before Quint, played by Shaw, is introduced to the mix.
Shaw's stiff upper lip English accent and aloofness makes him appear the odd man out, but his world weariness links him to Brody while his barbed comments and self-belief suggest he could have been closer to Hooper in his formative years.
The dialogue moves effortlessly between reflections on the movie and the film industry as a whole, to the older actors dismissiveness of Hooper's youth and the threat it poses to them, before eventually heading to the deeply personal as Quint talks about his father and the parallels between the actor playing the role and his late father become clear.
There are heavy doses of irony as they talk about corrupt presidents, where Spielberg's career may go in the future, and why sequels don't work and shouldn't be made, but it's all perfectly balanced and delivered with supreme ease by three actors who are clearly relishing the roles.
With the play selling out its initial run and extra shows being added, there is only one conclusion you can reach should have got a bigger theatre. (Andy Mosely - Daily Business Magazine - 12/08/19)
KRYZTOFF MAGAINE - 12/08/19 - bit.ly/SBReviewTimes
The new visions of the new film directors that came to our silver screens in the 1970s still remain fresh in many instances. None more so than Stephen Spielberg's JAWS, with its haunting trademark notes opening this easy to like work.
The Shark Is Broken takes us onto the JAWS set, the boat indeed, with its three players sitting around waiting days, weeks even for the mechanical beast of prey to work properly in order to film the last scenes. Co-writer Ian Shaw plays his father, the heavy drinking Irishman, Robert Shaw (who plays Quint), Liam Murray Scott plays a dopey, self obsessed Richard Dreyfuss (who plays Hooper) while Duncan Henderson is Roy Schneider (who plays Chief Brody). It should be noted that all three bare great resemblances to their actual characters, though obviously in the case of Shaw this may not have been hard.
It may also be appropriate to suggest the play is, in a Seinfeld tradition, not about very much. However, under Guy Masterson's pin-point direction, insult and observation, both of their present and ours, are delivered deliciously; wit as razor sharp as the shark's, put downs as cold as the sea that supposedly surrounds them, all done nonetheless with a warmth to match a swig of Shaw's whiskey.
Great fun and a sure hit at this yer's Fringe. (Peter Maddern - Krzstoff Magazine - 12/08/19)
EDINBURGH GUIDE - 03/08/19 - bit.ly/SBReviewEdGuide
In the summer of 1975, the Hollywood blockbuster JAWS created a tsunami wave of panic for beachgoers worldwide, but the making of the movie was also a dramatic nightmare. Ian Shaw co-wrote this play based on the behind-the-scenes diary of his late father Robert Shaw, who played Quint, the shark hunter.
With a blast of the spine-tingling, heart-beating score by John Williams, the set recreates the wooden banquette on board the Orca boat where Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss are bored and freezing cold. Shooting is suspended due to the malfunctioning hydraulics of the animatronic shark. "It would be easier to get a real shark ," suggests Dreyfuss in all seriousness. " $2 million over budget with no shark....it will be like Frankenstein without the monster .. I think this movie will fail."
Robert prowls into the cabin growling like a grizzly bear, portrayed with natural conviction by Ian Shaw - the same chiselled jaw and piercing eyes. The casting is exemplary to capture the actors' looks, manner, voice and accent.
The waiting around is intolerable for the ego-centric movie stars trapped in this claustrophobic space of the film set. Conversation about Shakespeare, parental expectations and President Nixon descends quickly into trading barbs and one-upmanship, laced with ironic humour and laugh out loud witty gags.
Robert in particular, passes the time swigging Scotch as they play a game of poker, but suddenly interrupted when Spielberg announces filming will start again camera rolling, Action. Not easy after excessive consumption of alcohol.
This intimacy of their situation is tightly, tautly directed, shifting from moments of calm reflection to stormy outbursts of anger.
Based on authentic events, the factual narrative creates a thrilling, gripping realistic drama which packs a punch.
A most powerful, poignant scene is when Ian Shaw re-enacts his father's famous Indianopolis monologue with such quiet, emotional intensity:
"Sometimes that shark looks right at ya. Right into your eyes. And the thing about a shark is he's got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll's eyes. When he comes at ya, he doesn't even seem to be livin'… 'til he bites ya .. " (Vivien Devlin - Edinburgh Guide - 13/08/19)
THE METRO - 15/08/19 - bit.ly/SBReviewMetro
Delve beneath the surface of Steven Spielberg's revolutionary JAWS with this charming and very funny tale of life on the set of the 1975 blockbuster. It's inspired by the diaries of Robert Shaw, who played Captain Quint and is depicted here by his son Ian, one of the co-writers.
The play follows Shaw and co-stars Richard Dreyfuss and Roy Scheider as they battle boredom on board the fictional Orca fishing boat while waiting for Bruce, the mechanical shark, to be fixed.
It starts off light-hearted, with the trio engaging in high-stakes games of shove ha'penny and bantering about their past roles.
But it quickly becomes something much more personal and revelatory as the shoot drags on.
Shaw doesn't shy away from his father's battles with alcohol (he would hide bottles of rum around the boat in case of an emergency).
And Shaw Snr's aggressive, borderline abusive relationship on set with Dreyfuss (Liam Murray-Scott) is portrayed with refreshing honesty. But given Robert died when Ian was just nine years old, three years after JAWS was released, the play feels as much about a son getting to know the father who wasn't there, as it does about inter-set conflict.
This isn't gloomy stuff, however... There's plenty of fun interplay Scheider (Duncan Henderson) is a level-headed bore with a fondness for a fact, while Dreyfuss is an excitable upstart who rubs people the wrong way. And there are a few knowing nods to the future of the JAWS franchise. ‘You can't make a sequel to this,' mocks Shaw. ‘I wouldn't star in it,' replies Scheider who did. Add in the ubiquitous score, and this play packs plenty of bite. (Josh Stephenson - Metro - 15/08/19)
BRITISHTHEATRE.COM - 15/08/19 - bit.ly/SBReviewBTcom
Guy Masterson has given so many excellent productions to the Fringe, and here is yet another production of high quality acting and presentation. This is highly original, and features a cultural icon that we all know and love! It's 1974 and Shaw, Dreyfuss and Schieder are trapped filming a movie that they have little faith in because the mechanical shark keeps breaking down. Yes, it's JAWS, and this wonderful play gives a sharp, hilarious and poignant insight into Hollywood and fame.
The play is given such insight because one of the co-writers, (along with Joseph Nixon), is Ian Shaw, son of Robert, who plays his father in this production. As he acknowledges in the programme, especially with a moustache, he looks amazingly like his father did playing Quint, and he is truthful in playing the father he loved, despite his flaws, alcohol being one of them. But the excellent casting is also evident in Duncan Brody as Schieder/Chief Brody and Liam Murray Scott as Dreyfus/ Hooper. As the shoot goes on and on and the shark machines continually break down, the men bicker, gamble, fight and reflect on fame and their lives. Shaw and Dreyfus continually clash, the older actor cynical about his profession, missing his family back home in Ireland, feeling his work is unworthy, clashing with the younger actor's ego and need for fame. The peace keeper is Schieder, the voice of calm and reason, and also -wonderfully- quite boring!
Written with hindsight, of course, the play has hilarious discussions about JAWS and cinema, they all expect the film to flop when it became the first "official" summer blockbuster, changing the industry forever. Dreyfus says Spielberg has spoken to him about his next movie, which will feature friendly aliens, (Close Encounters of the Third Kind), and Schieder says there can't ever be a sequel to JAWS and even if there was, he would never do it. (He did!) But it's Shaw who touches your heart, especially when, as Robert, he talks of his father dying. He clearly is remembering his adored father, and his speech, as Quint, which ends the play is a wonderful tribute. Beyond that, the play itself is a tribute to Hollywood and the magic of cinema. Add in snatches of THAT score, and you may find yourself watching the film itself not long after! (Dr Paul Davies - BritishTheatre.com - 15/08/19)
UK THEATRE NETWORK - 16/08/19 - bit.ly/SBReviewUKTheatreNet
What a privilege it was to be in the audience for The Shark Is Broken.
The director is no less than Richard Burton's nephew Guy Masterson, this year taking part in his 26th Fringe. But the real coup is the co-writer and star of the play, Ian Shaw.
For the show is set on the film set of JAWS, which starred Shaw's father, Robert Shaw.
Earlier in the week I had heard him talking about how he penned, with Joseph Nixon, the play based on his father's diaries. "He struggled with alcohol and his diaries were quite a hard read." he had said.
This, of course, comes out in the story as the three stars of the film, Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss and Roy Scheider, are stuck on a boat in (if the sound effects are anything to go by) rough seas, because of problems with ‘the shark'.
Shaw - who had described his father as ‘old school', Dreyfuss was more neurotic and brash, while Scheider was the mother figure trying to keep everybody happy - was, of course, in a unique position to write this play and the air of authenticity really comes across, especially as he, playing his father, looks so like him (a gasp went through the audience as he made his entrance). Duncan Henderson is also a double for Scheider both in looks and demeanour, and Liam Murray Scott, another lookalike, is certainly neurotic and brash as Dreyfuss!
This is a hugely enjoyable insight into the making of one of the most iconic of films and its stars. It's almost like eavesdropping as they discuss Steven Spielberg (‘he may be just a kid but he's crazy') and the film (‘a retarded offspring of Moby Dick'), while opinions are aired and egos clash. Fascinating, not only for film fans but for those who appreciate fine acting, there is talk of a full version going to London and on tour. Don't miss it! (Clare Brotherhood - UK Theatre Net - 16/08/19)
LYN GARDNER - STAGEDOOR - 17/08/19 - bit.ly/SBReviewStagedoor
Producer and director Guy Masterson has been delivering crowd-pleasing shows on the fringe for decades. 'The Shark is Broken' is no exception.
Written by Joseph Nixon and Ian Shaw (the son of Oscar-nominated actor Robert Shaw - best remembered for his role as the shark hunter in JAWS), it draws on Robert Shaw’s diaries and other sources to give us an insight into the making of JAWS.
When the mechanical shark breaks, the movie's stars start back-biting and bitching in the back of the boat while they wait for the filming to resume. None of them seem all that keen on a movie which one of them describes as "the retarded offspring of Moby Dick and Enemy of the People."
Richard Dreyfuss (Liam Murray Scott) reckons that it can't be that hard to tame a real shark to replace the unreliable mechanical beast. Roy Scheider (Duncan Henderson) knows that he was second choice to Charlton Heston to play the role of Brody. Meanwhile, Shaw (played by Ian), who is drinking himself into an early grave, muses on whether the film they are making is headed for the dustbin of history, and if anyone will be interested in it forty years hence.
One of the pleasures - and sometimes poignancies - of the show is that the audience has hindsight. The observation that "there will never be a moral immoral president than Tricky Dicky" gets a big laugh. We know too that Dreyfuss will go on to be the big star he longs to be, if not the acclaimed Shakespearean actor he would like, and that Shaw will be dead before he can give up the booze and apply himself to the writing which he feels is his real vocation.
There is potential in a story which comes with a terrific snarky father and son type central relationship between the dismissive Shaw and the egotistical wannabe Dreyfuss, the former slyly offering the latter hilarious advice about how to approach Harold Pinter for a role. Yep, it is biography theatre, but it is done with intelligence and no little wit, so it's no surprise that it is making a bit of a splash on the fringe. The question is whether it could float in rougher commercial seas where there are more sharks with bigger teeth. (Lyn Gardner - Stagedoor - 17/08/19)
SCOTTISH DAILY MAIL - 20/08/19 - bit.ly/SBReviewScottishDM
Real drama has lots of bite! We're going to need a bigger boat', says one of the actors in this comedy drama set in 1974 behind the scenes during the making of the Steven Spielberg blockbuster, JAWS.
But it's not a bigger boat The Shark Is Broken needs, it's a bigger venue. The production, directed by Festival veteran Guy Masterson, and starring Ian Shaw playing his late father Robert, is the runaway hit of this year's Fringe. And it's easy to see why. The show and threestrong cast really are terrific.
A sharp, satirical and hilarious look at Hollywood, and the fame game and celebrity, the show takes its title from the fact that during the movie, shooting had to be held up countless times because of technical difficulties with Bruce, the mechanical
shark. ‘Why can't they just use a tame shark?' queries a not too bright Richard Dreyfuss.
The play focuses on the relationship between the film's three stars – Shaw, Dreyfuss and Roy Scheider – as they spend their downtime together. So we watch them chewing the fat about their careers, (all are convinced the film will bomb); playing cards and, in the case of Shaw and Dreyfuss, constantly clashing.
The hard-drinking Shaw, who never appears without a bottle of booze, has no pretensions about the movie biz and is keen to get back to his writing and family. The whiny, self-obsessed, neurotic Dreyfuss, (played with a fine twitchy energy here by Liam Murray Scott), is an intellectual desert obsessed with celebrity. ‘I'm officially big,' he crows when the notices come in for his previous movie. Making up the triumvirate is Duncan Henderson as the dull, factoid-obsessed Scheider.
Aside from the comedy, there is also a poignancy in Ian Shaw playing his father in his battle with the booze. At one incredibly moving moment, Robert Shaw wonders aloud what his father would have made of his son turning out to be an actor. ‘I wonder if he'd have been proud.' The applause ringing round the auditorium should at least provide his son with the answer. (Alan Chadwick - Scottish Daily Mail - 20/08/19)
BRITISH THEATRE GUIDE - 22/08/19 - bit.ly/SBReviewBTG
It's well known that one of the greatest aspects of the classic horror movie JAWS was how it tantalisingly only showed the shark in glimpses until near the end. It's also common knowledge that one of the reasons behind this artistic choice was because the mechanical monster props continually broke down during production.
As a result, the three main actors, Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw, were often holed-up on the boat for long days, with nothing to do but drink, argue and pass the hours. Taking inspiration from the late Robert Shaw's diaries of the time, his son Ian Shaw along with Joseph Nixon have crafted a nigh on perfect theatre encapsulation of those trying days into an hour of onstage magic.
With the long-established expertise of Guy Masterson helming the production and a script that is rock-solid, a worthy cast is needed. It's unsurprising that co-writer Shaw would be willing to step into his father's shoes, in an uncanny turn that feels doubly eerie when he is reciting sections of the film's script. Equally surprising in both look and sound is Duncan Henderson's turn as Scheider, all New Jersey swagger and relaxed sarcasm. It's only Liam Murray Scott who isn't quite the perfect visual replica of Richard Dreyfuss, but that's something immediately forgotten as soon as he begins to whine and strut with bravado and entirely convinces as the uptight and upcoming actor.
Sat around the dinner table in the Orca, the three of them pass the time arguing, as the legendary feuding between Shaw and Dreyfuss begins to manifest. The pair clash at every turn, while Shaw drinks constantly, Dreyfuss laments his career not taking off soon enough and Scheider relaxes as the cheerful voice of reason, clearly loving the distraction from the tedium. They play cards and ha'penny shunt and talk about their lives, their passions, their work, occasionally opening up to each other and sometimes ending up at each other's throats.
It's hard to find words enough to describe this confluence of excellence. It's a simple play, well written about three men who could hardly be more perfectly different if they were invented for a play. There's also something cleverer going on, as the actions of the actors mimic the personalities of their characters in other ways as Shaw plays many lines almost directly to the audience, whereas Henderson never once seems to be aware he's on stage, often sat to himself, idly reading script pages or coolly watching the others. There's also a continued recurring motif of Shaw working on the infamous USS Indianapolis speech, and it's literally chilling to hear him talking about "dead eyes, like a doll's eyes" as he describes the slaughter of hundreds of men.
Whether you are a casual fan of the film JAWS or not, this is a stage production for the ages. It may have been born at the 2019 Edinburgh Fringe, but I have no doubt it will take the world. (Graham Strachan - British Theatre Guide - 22/08/19)
THE STAGE - 24/08/19 - bit.ly/SBReviewStage
Set on the film set of JAWS as its three stars bicker and drink to pass away the interminable between-shot delays, The Shark Is Broken is an intoxicating combination of behind-the-scenes gossip and contemplation of the nature of popular art.
There is a real authenticity to it thanks to Ian Shaw's involvement in the script, using the drinking diaries his father Robert kept during the shooting of JAWS as source material. Shaw also plays his own father, and does so with a commendable honesty, revealing his alcoholism and bullying attitude towards his younger co-star Richard Dreyfuss (Liam Murray Scott). Guy Masterson directs at a rattling pace. He uses Duncan Henderson's resigned stoicism in his portrayal of Roy Schneider to temper the flare-ups between Dreyfuss and Shaw, which feel as if the two are on the edge of control.
There is much humour in a script peppered with knowing lines on the future fortunes of the film, its makers and even American politics-Watergate was happening during filming. And while it is also a cleverly worked memento for fans of the film, notably Robert Shaw's re-writing of his character, Quint's Indianapolis monologue which closes out the play, it is the human relationships between the three that work best. (Thom Dibdin - The Stage - 24/08/19)
The Scotsman - 24/08/19 - bit.ly/SBReviewScotsman
It's hardly surprising that Ian Shaw's new play The Shark Is Broken, co-written with Joseph Nixon is attracting some of the most enthusiastic packed houses on the Fringe.
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.
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 - The Scotsman - 24/-08/19)
West End Wilma - 24/08/19 - bit.ly/SBReviewWestEndWilma
The Shark Is Broken is an insight into the backstage relationships of the three main actors in Steven Spielberg's JAWS and is based on the diaries of Robert Shaw; in fact, his son is one of the stars and co-writers of this play.
The Shark Is Broken is set behind the scenes of the filming during the frequent and protracted periods where the iconic mechanical shark was broken.
Things start out fairly amicably between Shaw and his co-stars Richard Dreyfuss and Roy Scheider however their relationships and interactions quickly sour as the ennui of having little to do together in a claustrophobic space sets in. Shaw is battling alcohol abuse and a lot of his internal struggles play out through an enduring physical and mental bullying of Dreyfuss. Despite the seemingly heavy context, the piece remains rather light. All three performers are outstanding and everything including the lighting, the set and, of course, the performances come across wonderfully polished. (Peter Cowell - West End Wilma - 22/08/19)
LONDON STUDENT MAGAZINE - 24/08/19 - bit.ly/SBReviewLondonStudent
Perhaps the most critically and commercially successful production at this year's festival, The Shark Is Broken has sold out almost every single performance in its large venue for the whole festival, garnered a list of superlative descriptions that'd make any other show green with envy, and been talked about across the whole city. Hell, there are more flyerers and performances targeting the 'shark queue' than there are on the nearby major street.
I have to say, the hype is most definitely justified. Resurrecting the spirit of his father, the legendary Robert Shaw, Ian Shaw and Joseph Nixon have scripted a shapeshifting, wonderful piece of work set during the filming of Spielberg's JAWS - a legendarily strenuous shoot.
Aside from Ian Shaw's explainable resemblance to his father, what is at first most striking about The Shark Is Broken is just how much everyone else resembles their real-life analogues as well. Duncan Henderson is the spitting image of Roy Schneider and Liam Murray Scott is an effective Richard Dreyfuss lookalike. One wonders whether it'd be physically possible to find a better cast to play these characters-we're instantly catapulted into the mid-70's, even from an Edinburgh university lecture theatre.
When the play begins, we're faced by the instantly recognisable Orca table, and that even-more recognisable theme tune…. Shooting the film has already drawn on for months and the cast are being pushed to breaking point. Spielberg's insistence on realism-actually filming his work at sea-has caused scores of problems, most notably that the technicians can't figure out how to make a mechanical shark that actually works. In this creative limbo, the relationship between Shaw, Dreyfuss and Schneider becomes more personal and begins to fracture under pressure and monotony.
The three men represent people at three very different stages of their careers: Dreyfuss is really just starting out, still drawn-in by the prospect of money, fame, and women; Schneider is at the mid-point in his creative life, and appears to have found some peace and balance in his existence; Shaw is now at the end of his career, and has appeared both in critically-acclaimed works and commercial successes-he yearns to move on from the acting world to writing. Naturally, with these three strong personalities and very different world views, there's a spectacular culture clash in the room.
Initially, The Shark Is Broken lays down the jokes thick and fast. Most of the humour-which is genuinely very funny-comes from Shaw and Schneider roasting Dreyfuss's youthful naivety, or from Shaw's borderline self-parodic 'old dog' identity, which the others struggle to place as a performance or genuine personality. There are also scores of laughs that come from the way in which the cast rip on films they see as forgettable nonsense, when, in fact, 40 years later they've become 'classics'.
Altogether, this is an intelligent, referential script that absolutely trusts the audience and their cultural knowledge. At several points, I was actually surprised by just how much faith Shaw and Nixon have put in us. A younger, less culturally-aware audience is likely to be blindsided by a lot of these jokes-that said, the crowd for this 11am show about the cast of JAWS is almost comically OAP (a flyerer outside likens it to a 'nursing home'). Aside from a 'there'll be no more controversial president than Nixon' joke-which I've now heard so many times in theatrical productions and films that it's beginning to get a bit annoying-this is a pitch-perfect piece of writing.
Indeed, that becomes even truer when the piece moves away-almost without you noticing it-from outright laugh-out-loud comedy to something more meditative and profound. An exploration of parents, upbringings, and just what it means to be an actor, The Shark Is Broken packs more interesting ideas and tonal shifts into its brief 75-minute runtime than we're used to seeing in much longer pieces of work.
As delirium sets in, and litres of alcohol are consumed, the barriers each character has psychologically built begin to collapse, giving us sight of the real people underneath-their fragility, their insecurities, their reasons for the acting they do off-set when they construct narratives for the public. Because we've fallen so in love with these characters and this piece of work from the comedy of its first half, the introspective questioning of its second hits about twice as hard as it might've.
Ultimately, this feels like a piece of prestige theatre that's almost too big for the Fringe, despite its relatively small scale. I wonder if, in the frenzy to praise The Shark Is Broken to the heavens, some have been a little too enthusiastic to proclaim it as a masterpiece. Although it's a truly impressive, enjoyable piece of work, there is a lingering sense that it's not especially memorable and there is a lack of those spine-tingling moments that signify a spectacular show. Still, I loved it-I get the sense that everyone else loves it too, maybe even more than I did. You can't get a ticket to see it (unless you risk the returns queue) because its sold out, but fear not, I'm absolutely sure this show will find it's way to a much bigger theatre in a town near you very soon (James Witherspoon - London Student Magazine - 24/08/19)
LAST MOVIE OUTPOST - 25/08/19 - bit.ly/SBReviewLastMovieOutpost
"You're Gonna Need A Bigger Boat!" At the Edinburgh Festival Fringe last week, Red Dwarf and I went to see The Shark Is Broken. A stage play written by Joseph Nixon and Ian Shaw (Robert Shaw's son) and inspired by his father's diaries, the show offers some insight into Hollywood at the time, and look behind the scenes of one of the greatest blockbusters of all time. The show takes us to Martha's Vineyard in 1974. Steven Spielberg is becoming physically ill trying to make the movie that will define his early career, JAWS. Actors Robert Shaw, Roy Scheider, and Richard Dreyfuss are stuck with one another on Quint's Orca fishing boat set while filming.
Enduring endless delays, studio politics, foul weather and a constantly broken mechanical shark called Bruce, the actors' conversations deteriorate into their insecurities, competing egos, petty rivalry, and excess alcohol consumption. The lights come up to John Williams famous score, before settling on the set of red-leather cushioned seats and wooden table of the Orca. And for the next 70 minutes, the production takes you back to that claustrophobic atmosphere on set. Shaw and Dreyfuss are constantly winding each other up with Scheider often brokering the peace. Shaw, the seasoned pro, duelling with the inexperienced kid from New York, as boredom on the set becomes a factor. Duncan Henderson plays Roy Scheider/Brody. Henderson is a dead-ringer for Scheider and not just looks-wise, the mannerisms were almost unnerving. Scheider is a professional who doesn't seem to let much bother him. Scheider thinks he is the main star of the movie. Liam Murray-Scott plays Richard Dreyfuss/Hooper. As an actor, he's the new kid on the block, like an excitable Jack Russell. He wants to be a star but is convinced that this movie might be his last. Dreyfuss thinks he is the main star of the movie. Ian Shaw plays Robert Shaw/Quint. Ian Shaw's transformation into his father is phenomenal. Ian was 9 when Robert died. Robert is the cynical, experienced, intelligent actor, who battles his demons with professionalism and wit. Shaw has a draft JAWS one-sheet, that clearly shows he is the main star of the movie. Some of the more amusing scenes include Shaw hiding bottles of rum around the boat in case of an emergency, cheating at cards and making up games so he could gamble. Musings on whether anyone would remember the film "40 years from now". One of the many highlights from the show is Ian Shaw reciting Quint's USS Indianapolis speech from the movie, Olivier Award-winner Guy Masterson directs The Shark Is Broken, and if any of you get a chance to go and see this, make it happen, it's one of the best stage productions I think I've seen. (McCleod - Last Movie Outpost -25/08/19)
EDINBURGH REPORTER - 28/08/19 - bit.ly/SBReviewEdReporter
With The Shark Is Broken, Fringe stalwart and director Guy Masterson brought another vital piece of new writing to Edinburgh.
Rolling back the years to 1975, the last golden age of Hollywood and Steven Spielberg's much-troubled production JAWS, we are privy to conversations between the film's three stars, the yet unknown Richard Dreyfuss, a cocky New York kid at odds with Robert Shaw, played by the actor's real-life son Ian Shaw, who is also the production's co-writer along with Joseph Nixon. Duncan Henderson as Roy Scheider is the straight-man who referees the behaviour between the battling booze and drug addled egos. While the mechanical shark (Bruce) is broken, the Hollywood actors have nothing better to do than fight, take drugs or spend the day boozing while waiting for filming to resume.
Ian Shaw reveals his Scottish descent father's writing ability, love of literature and time spent growing up in Orkney. Despite his heavy drinking, in the iconic role of Quint, we see him write and nail the esteemed Indianapolis monologue, the much-loved spiel is one of the most cited and chilling of the era. Ian Shaw brings much humanity and heart to the performance. (Richard Purden - Edinburgh Reporter - 28/08/19)
DARKCHAT - 28/08/19 - bit.ly/SBReviewDarkchat
Winner: DarkChat Edinburgh Fringe 2019 Best Play
Winner: DarkChat Edinburgh Fringe 2019 Joint Best Actor Award - Ian Shaw & Duncan Henderson
Winner: DarkChat Edinburgh Fringe 2019 Best Supporting Actor - Liam Murray-Scott
Darkchatter Phil has, on occasion, been known to let nostalgia get the better of him on occasion when making show selections. Too often in the past he has been duped into watching sketch shows linked to Back to the Future, or improve shows tied into Quantum Leap, only to come away in dire need of alcohol. So, determined never to be fooled again, Phil was adamant he was not going to see anything film/tv-themed this Edinburgh when making his choices, and lasted 3 seconds before spotting The Shark Is Broken and jotting it down as a must-see. So, was this to be on a par with the original 1975 classic, or on a par with JAWS-The Revenge (which is garbage, in case you weren't sure).
The play is set aboard the Orca as filming of JAWS wraps up in 1974. The film was notorious for being delayed due to the mechanical shark failing repeatedly, and this follows conversations between the three lead actors from the film as they try to fill their time with games and such over a period of about 8 weeks. As the play progresses, the characters become increasingly frustrated with situations, but also come to bond as a group, as you can probably predict. The play is, essentially, as much a nod to the life of Robert Shaw and his struggles with fame, alcohol and the death of his father as it is anything else, understandable considering it is co-written by Shaw's son Ian, who also plays Shaw in the play. Shaw is the spitting image of his father, and plays the troubled actor perfectly, but it is perhaps the understated performance of Duncan Henderson that is true star of the show, adding humour and charm as Roy Scheider aka Chief Brody. Completing the cast is a solid performance by Liam Murray Scott as Richard Dreyfuss, though perhaps playing him a bit closer to the character of Hooper than the actor himself, who is forced to face some uncomfortable scenes with Shaw as their troubled relationship whilst shooting is outlined. Beautifully directed with lovely use of the JAWS theme periodically, this is a well-acted and emotional play that gives enough of a nod to JAWS fans to keep them salivating, but also enough humour and warmth to deliver sufficiently to non-fanatics. In short, the shark may have been broken, but thank heavens for us it was! (Phil - Darkchat - 28/08/19)
PUNTERS REVIEWS Ed19
Scott - 23/08/19: A fantastic performance from all three actors, channeling all three leads so uncannily well, this is as close as you will ever get to seeing the making of JAWS in the form of a play. Robert Shaw's diaries have inspired a truly magnificent play that explores the male ego, fame, alcoholism and what creates great chemistry between actors in equal measure. I feel privileged to be among the first in the world to see this, and I could see it easily being a fixture in London's West End or Broadway. Anyone who is a fan of great acting, film making, or just brilliant writing in general should see this. My favourite play of the whole Fringe, The Shark Is Broken is the play of 2019.
Lynn Hand - 23/08/19: This is a wonderful play: very funny yet perceptive in its exploration of masculinity and fatherhood. All cast members are excellent but seeing Ian Shaw playing his own father was particularly poignant.
Jayne Barr - 17/08/19: Best show on the Fringe this year. Deserves a transfer to London:Soho Theatre; you should grab it now!
Peter Nightingale - 14/08/19: This tops my list of 5* shows this year. Watching the show was like being transported back to 1975. I hope this show tours. A delight!
Jim Hewat - 14/08/19: What a fantastic play and performances from all the actors. . Best show on the fringe this year
Sean Davis - 11/08/19: ***** While making "JAWS, "Robert Shaw, Roy Scheider, and Richard Dreyfuss share many hours aboard a boat while waiting for Bruce, the mechanical shark, to be repeatedly repaired. Watching the hard drinking, irascible veteran Shaw berate the career conscious newcomer Dreyfuss provides much of the spark and humor of this piece while the working class Scheider acts as the level headed mediator and peer of Shaw. Shaw's son wrote the script, and one nice touch is watching his father repeatedly rework a scene throughout the show until it becomes a powerful finale.
Alex Smith - 11/08/19: An absolutely fantastic show. Felt like I was watching the original actors. Some very funny bits and I would recommend.5 stars without a doubt
Christine McDerment - 11/08/19: A really great show, funny and touching, Would thoroughly recommend it. Brilliant casting, excellent acting, good script. Not sure if it's worth recommending though, as it all seems to be pretty much sold out. If you can get a ticket, do so.
THE SCOTSMAN - 15/08/19 - bit.ly/SDReviewScotsman
Imagine a short, super-witty version of Waiting For Godot, in which the two men waiting for a third party who never quite appears are most definitely a Welshman and a Northern Irishman, and the centre of the stage is occupied not by a withered tree but by a coffin and you'll begin to have some idea of the wit and wisdom of Owen O'Neill's new 70-minute play Shaving The Dead, a pitch-perfect study of two middle-aged men on the edge of eternity or maybe, for all they know, already plunged into it.
Connor and Eurig are a pair of lugubrious undertakers who have worked together for more than a decade, and are used to waiting around together, in this case for the arrival of the man who commissioned them to pick up the coffin in question. Their banter therefore involves a wonderful combination of familiarity, revelation and invention, as they indulge in the odd silence, then continue their chat, about everything from Eurig's relationship with his ex-wife to the value of a good mint humbug. The play also boasts a bit of a story, with a pretty powerful revelation about halfway through. However, the main purpose of the plot-twist is to give the conversation a new turn, exploring how the two men might cope with the possibility of real change. And the end result beautifully directed by Guy Masterson is one of the most humane and satisfying theatre shows on the Fringe, as well as what must be one of the funniest, with a powerful belly-laugh in almost every other line. Alan McKee and Simon Nehan are magnificent as Connor and Eurig, capturing the earthy yet slightly surreal mood of O'Neill's writing to perfection; and when the play soars to an unexpected musical conclusion, the audience may well find themselves also shedding the odd tear over the sheer human absurdity and grace of it all. (Joyce McMillan - The Scotsman 15/08/19)
EDINBURGHGUIDE - 15/08/19 - bit.ly/SDReviewEdGuide
Shaving the Dead is an outstanding piece of comedy writing and a masterclass in comic timing.
Centre-stage throughout the proceedings is an over-sized coffin, flanked by two undertakers. On one side sits Eurig, a lugubrious Celt. On the other is Connor, a gruff Ulsterman. They are waiting for someone to arrive for the burial, but it is all a bit dodgy; they have been paid an extra £5,000 to pick up the coffin from an empty and deserted house.
The plot itself is of no great significance. But while they wait, they have the time to reflect on the past and to ponder on the present. They remind each other of all the bizarre funerals they have had to organise in the past. They casually reminisce about violent deaths. There are revelations about troubled family histories and present-day marital difficulties, which are shocking and hilarious in equal measure. Their profession deprived them long ago of the ability to smile, so every line gets a dry, deadpan delivery and an equally impassive reaction from the other person. The contrasting accents make a huge contribution to the humour. When silence briefly falls, it is just a springboard for the next flight of idiotic musings and inane speculations, which are normally about sex.
Shaving the Dead is a glorious mash-up of Waiting for Godot and Men Behaving Badly. And Joe Orton would have loved it. (Jon Cross - EdinburghGuide 15/08/19)
ONE4REVIEW - 17/08/19 - bit.ly/SDReviewOne4Review
LAUGH OUT LOUD DRAMA AT ITS VERY BEST With a champagne combination of the writing of Owen O'Neill and the direction of Guy Masterson, Shaving the Dead already looked incredibly promising. If you add in the sublime casting of Simon Nehan as Eurig and Alan McKee as Connor, you are in for an hour of entertaining drama.
A play about undertaking may not be everyone's idea of a fun topic, but the gallows humour and deadpan delivery of Welsh Eurig and Northern Irish Connor had the audience in stitches. Sitting either side of a coffin, Connor mourns the state of his marriage, his unhappy relationship with his recently departed mother and his hatred of his job. Eurig, on the other hand, mourns his relationship with his father, his lack of a love life and the lack of a suitable alternative to humbugs! All the while they are waiting for someone to pick up the coffin they are guarding and their suspicions of foul play mount as the time passes on. Then temptation gets the better of them….
This is laugh out loud drama at its very best. Simon Nehan and Alan McKee are fantastic in their roles I have no idea how they keep a straight face every day. The dialogue is so sharp, and the Northern Irish and Welsh accents add a perfectly nuanced dourness to the proceedings. The well-deserved applause rang out at the end of the play and will do so for the rest of the fringe. (Rona - one4review 17/08/19)
THE SCOTTISH PLAY - 08/08/19 - bit.ly/SDReviewScottishPlay
An Irish undertaker and a Welsh undertaker agree to collect the body of Charles Sterling from an abandoned building. The money's good, but the coffin's heavy. Back at the parlour, they await the arrival of the bereaved client, so that the coffin can be buried.
If this sounds, vaguely, like the set up to a joke, then Shaving the Dead, is a minor masterpiece of a theatrical punch-line.
Now, given the show's pedigree, written by multi-award winner Owen O'Neill, and directed by Fringe hit-maker, Guy Masterson, quality might be the expectation. Nevertheless, creating excellence consistently throughout such extensive careers, is far, far from a mean achievement.
The writing, slick as it is, never sands the rough edges from our protagonists' personas. The dialogue weaves between the banal, the ludicrous, and points sexual, familial, inspirational and hilarious in between. Despite, or, perhaps, because the two men are such flawed, imperfect human beings, it's impossible, in my mind, not to care for their ultimate fates. The result is a delightfully human comedy, painted with shades of tragedy and mystery.
The two actors, Simon Nehan (Eurig) and Alan McKee (Connor) occupy the skins of their misanthropes-in- black with ease, their characters rendered in many splendid hues. Without giving anything away, both have cause to exhibit delightful showmanship, beyond expectations.
The central story, well the coffin in the room, generates mounting anxiety to drive some hilariously escalating conversation, but, in a master stroke, is never fully explored (or exploded?) until the characters have been fully fleshed out. The subsequent drama is far weightier for having invited personal investment in the two curiously fascinating 'heroes' first.
There's really nothing left to say but that I urge you, with my first five-star review this year, to seriously consider picking up a ticket to this terrific show, and at your soonest convenience. (Harriett Wilson - Scottish Field Magazine 08/08/19)
BRITISH THEATRE GUIDE - 16/08/19 - bit.ly/SDReviewBTG
Undertakers Eurig and Connor are waiting to bury a mysterious Charles Sterling. They await the arrival of what turns out to be Connor's half-brother. (Half of Ireland is probably cousins.)
This waiting is filled with the exchanges common and easy between these two, friends of 10 years. Who could imagine these two would have anything new to discover about each other. Some of the exchanges are profound as when they talk about fathers. Some border on fall-off-the-chair as when Conner admits his wife is having an affair with a man and a woman; but it's what keeps their life together spontaneous.
And so these two wait. And talk. And wonder. And more. (No spoiler alerts here.)
Seasoned playwright Owen O'Neill has a secure handle on his characters and their relationship. These two, just shy of being a little creepy, play not quite to the extremes of shock or conflict or disbelief, but easily enough that it all seems new(s). O'Neill leads us slowly and gently, meandering, to the pair's surprising discovery.
Simon Nehan is the Welsh Eurig and Alan McKee is the Irish Connor. Smartly suited and sitting next to a coffin… waiting. They handle the macabre humour with knack. Director Guy Masterson has, with the lightest touch, allowed the stillness in these actors. When broken, it catches your breath.
Delightful storytelling by these four: playwright (O'Neill), director (Masterson), and two actors (Nehan and McKee), who tenderly coax the event along. (Catherine Lamm - British Theatre Guide - 16/08/19)
BROADWAY BABY 20/08/19 - bit.ly/SDReviewBroadwayB
Shaving the Dead starts with two undertakers waiting at a coffin. One (the welshman) very bluntly tells the other (the irishman) how he brained his own father with a rock. As they continue to wait, they share more twisted but intriguing stories and habits with each other. It's like Godot: they're forever waiting for the party to arrive. Shaving the Dead is wry, boils along slowly but is also strangely compulsive.
A well thought out depiction of a world made absurd... While I definitely enjoyed the comedy (which was dark and well done) what makes it a success is the strange, grotesque but sweet pair onstage. Alan McKee as Connor and Simon Nehan as Eurig are both very watchable, and the actors capture every detail of their relationship onstage. The script keeps us going with small revelations that piece together these two men and all of the subtleties in between them. Mckee and Nehan were able to capture the humorous, absurd, and slightly surreal atmosphere brilliantly.
This is helped by the production itself. The set is minimalist and striking with a bright red curtain and a coffin between them, wisely focussing the attention on the two leads. I did feel some moments of the play (usually the ones set to music) came across as not just absurd but bizarre, overdone and a little bit off beat. Personally I enjoyed this as it added to the strange charm Shaving the Dead has, but it's understandable that it isn't for everyone.
I enjoyed the kind of comfort this pair had in each other. I enjoyed the constant suspense. The script was able to be funny but still take these characters seriously. Shaving the Dead is a well thought out depiction of a world made absurd by too close a proximity to death. (George Lea - Broadway Baby 21/08/19)
PUNTERS REVIEWS Ed19
Steven Nicol - 21/08/19: Wow, what a play. Dark, funny, superbly acted. The highlight of my Fringe. Guy Masterson continues to give amazing shows. Not for the faint hearted or easily offended (very mild swearing and content) but fits in with darkness of funerals.
Nick Hunn - 16/08/19: If you're commissioning a new TV series, sign this one up, as I want to see more. It's a masterclass in black comedy and timing.
Kierna Corr - 15/08/19: Absolutely brilliant show - the two actors were amazing in their deadpan delivery. I found myself gasping and laughing in equal measure. Catch this one if you can.
Simon Southwell - 14/08/19: A hidden gem of a show. Superb writing and two great performances. Comic, surreal and unexpected. A must see.
THE SCOTSMAN - 13/08/19 - bit.ly/SDReviewScotsman
Meanwhile, there's another kind of Capulet in da house party one from the Midlands in Nick Hennegan's similarly sport-themed Romeo & Juliet set around two warring football clubs, Birmingham City and Aston Villa. Here, a female Juliet is equally at home kicking a ball as she is listening to R&B and sending gossipy texts. This is a place where "examine other beauties" means getting on Tinder and living your life obsessing over a man is a definite no, no at least until "lips" start doing "what hands do" and it becomes a definite yes, yes.
Here, the banter is as up to date as the latest i-Phone, thanks to amusing colloquial asides woven into the dialogue by Hennegan to create a culture clash between Shakesperian and contemporary language one that's as invigorating as the physical theatre battles between the two teams of players at the start.
With the inevitable tragedy looming, the comic interjections subside in a way that reveals their limitations, but as Romeo and Juliet wishfully plan their future together in Manchester an unlikely alternative to Mantua the remaining flecks of humour makes what we all know is going happen next even sadder.
With epic musical interjections reminiscent of queuing for a major theme park attraction, it's a piece that could be developed through a bigger production that integrates sound and physicality more throughout, as well as a full set. But when the young performers take their bow, it's a surprising reminder of how large a story they've managed to tell with only a cast of four. (Sally Stott - The Scotsman - 13/08/19)
BRITISH THEATRE GUIDE - 09/08/19 - bit.ly/SDReviewBTG
Romeo and Juliet are the star-crossed lovers who end up dying. Surely a story well-known thanks to lot of ballets and operas, West Side Story, Zeffirelli's famous film from 1968, the modern version with Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio from 1996, ad nauseum.
Romeo and Juliet of feuding families meet and fall in love. But he's from the wrong side of the tracks and she is promised to another.
So, they devise a plan that makes both look like they are dead and can then run off together. But they haven't quite exchanged the details of the plans with each other.
Writer/director Nick Hennegan has culled the basics of the story and made it current. Equal parts of Shakespeare and Hennegan. The weight of the issues of the Shakespearean Romeo and Juliet lack the realism to start the modern-day play off. The chaste characters in Shakespeare are nothing like the easy access of today. It's hard to find a way to make this happen. But wait!
When, with Hennegan's razor sharp direction, the actors find the relationship, it becomes breathtakingly inspiring.
The two-minute wordless love scene is one of the most powerful I've seen. (Hennegan or movement director Katie Merritt.) It is neither sexual nor salacious nor titillating. It is a dance, a ballet. From here forward, Hennegan and his actors are masters. The cast is flawless and well matched. This is a masterclass on how to do Shakespeare with four actors and one very wise director. (Catherine Lamm - British Theatre Guide - 14/08/19)
PUNTERS REVIEWS Ed19
Christine McDerment - 09/08/19: Yet another illustration of how timeless Shakespeare was. A cast of four young actors ably take on R&J with knife-wielding football thugs, drug-dealing hoodies, an abusive father and forced marriage. You can't get much more topical! Well performed.
BRITISH THEATRE GUIDE 18/08/19 - bit.ly/PLReviewBTG
Pete, Andy, Linda and Sue are P.A.L.S. They have been since very young schoolchildren. They are well-match. It's Sue's garden so she's the boss. Sue is number four because Pete is number one and he says so. These are the monumental moments of childhood.
In Pals we see them grow from early schoolchildren to the brink of adulthood. They help each other grow up. The boys test their limits with the girls, becoming aware of their differences, especially as they grow into their sexuality. The girls don't mind experimenting but here they are the "boss". It is so familiar. Slowly, the characters and personalities of each grow up. But we must watch closely. They are best of pals who grow to be strangers.
Kizzy Dunn as Sue, Amy Anderson as Linda, Andrew Greaves as Andy and Phillip John Jones as Pete have created realistic children who grow to be adults. These four talented actors, also in Romeo and Juliet, are well-cast and well-matched.
This is based on a on a true story from director/writer Nick Hennegan's own past. He has constructed a believable and enchanting world that does not reach farther than their front doors and no more painful than a skinned knee with the energy and imagination of childrenuntil the end.
Four white chairs create their world with only one onstage costume change. Kudos to the production team: costume, lights, sound, board tech.
As realistic as his script is, Hennegan's directing is spot-on, especially the one frighteningly well-done moment when the somewhat naïve Andy has an unexpected homosexual encounter. Greaves reaction is so real, so raw, so painful, so mesmerizing. Audiences live for these moments.
This is a winning team of talent and another jewel of Guy Masterson. (Catherine Lamm - British Theatre Guide - 18/08/19)
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED FringeReview 21/08/19 - bit.ly/PLReviewFringeReview
A play about growing up. A rare combination of great writing and directing backed up with acting of the highest class.
Peter, Andy, Linda and Sue are pals and have been since they can ever remember. Playing together, forever in and out of each other"s homes, they grow up over the course of this sixty minutes of powerful, pithy and poignant theatre, from chatterbox primary school kids into teens on the cusp of adulthood.
This four-hander, written and superbly directed by Nick Hennegan is set in Birmingham and begins smack in the middle of the baby boomer period, running through to the point when punk was just beginning to grab our attention. Like a lot of really good writing, what we see is based on Hennegan's personal experiences and the nodding heads and murmured conversation of the exiting audience told you that many who watched this superbly acted piece of theatre identified with the many and varied issues it addressed those of friendship, loyalty, choices, ambition and actually understanding who you really are and what you stand for.
The high energy of pre-teens morphs into the awkward, gawky teen years as the quartet starts to break apart, driven in no small part by the education system which, at that time, split you off aged 11 and a bit into the "haves" and have nots". The former ended up running the country, the latter keeping the lights on.
But as the foursome develop, so things take on a darker, less rosy hue. And the denouement hits us right in the heart beautifully scripted, sympathetically acted, leaving the audience in complete and utter silence.
The set of four white wooden chairs is deceptively simple, given the intricate manner in which they are deployed by the cast. Costuming is similarly stark, with the one on-stage change (to indicate the switch from primary to secondary education) being cleverly choreographed to avoid any break in the flow.
Someone has also had great fun with the sound segues it was like a trip down memory lane listening to each snatch of music which, without fail, helped signpost the next stage in the development of the relationships of our quartet.
But it's the acting that catches the eye. There's an obvious on-stage chemistry and Phillip John Jones (Pete), Andrew Greaves (Andy), Amy Anderson (Linda) and Kizzy Dunn (Sue) are as universally excellent in their core roles as they are in the many and varied other characters they flip between over the course of the play. Accents are perfect, as is the ageing (they play roles aged from 11 to 50 plus) and you know in an instant just who they are representing. And the tricky issue of how to handle the multitude of props that might be required in a show like this was dealt with by having the four actors mime (with great conviction) everything from eating their dinner to reading the paper to..well, let's not go there shall we?
As someone said to me on the way out, "that was deep". Yes, it was. And all the better for it. A rare combination of great writing and directing backed up with acting of the highest class. This is clearly a theatre company with a great deal to offer. Others agree they've just got a month's run in London on the back of their efforts up here. Catch this if you can up here though. Highly recommended. (Tim Wilcock - FringeReview- 21/08/19)
PUNTERS REVIEWS Ed19
Neil - 11/08/19: Like Pete, being from South Birmingham and having moved to Edinburgh over twenty years ago. I thought this would be worth watching. So glad I did, as this is a very slick, well acted, funny and heartbreaking show. Well done guys!
Eileen Donoghue - 08/08/19: Well done to the cast of this show! A wonderfully entertaining drama from 4 very talented young people. Funny, thought provoking and sad all in one short show. The cast played various characters and were so believable. Would definitely recommend this to anyone looking for something a bit different from all the comedy on offer. Advice: try to sit near the front to see the facial expressions of the cast and: take plenty of tissues with you for the final scenes.