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.