The Shark Is Broken
Assembly George Square Studios, Edinburgh Fringe ★★★★★
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.