REVIEW: The Shark Is Broken at Mirvish

“If you loved the movie, you’ll probably like the show.”

The above encapsulates my thoughts on both Mirvish openings this week: the damp and dance-y Singin’ in the Rain and, more recently, The Shark Is Broken at the Royal Alex. The latter is an amusing look behind the scenes of Jaws, set on a claustrophobic boat in the middle of the ocean while Steven Spielberg ostensibly wrangles Bruce the mechanical shark offstage. 

If you’re a Jaws aficionado, this show’s one for you. If you’re not, it’s a fine play, though a solid chunk of the laughs are predicated on needing bigger boats.

Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, and Robert Shaw, actors at different stages in their career and of varying degrees of life experience, star in Jaws, which, wink-wink-nudge-nudge, is sure to be a commercial flop — or so they think. As production stalls due to issues with the animatronic shark, the three bicker and bond, becoming closer and revealing their traumas a little at a time. It’s a story of male friendship, and it’s often quite touching, particularly in moments between beleaguered Brit Shaw and youngster Dreyfuss.

The Shark Is Broken, written by Ian Shaw and Joseph Nixon, falters for me as a play more than it does a production. Demetri Goritsas as Scheider, Liam Murray Scott as Dreyfuss, and Shaw as Shaw (his dad!) often have a lovely chemistry, Nina Dunn’s video design ably suggests a wily sea, and Adam Cork’s sound and music incorporate a suitable number of “duuuuun dun”s into the production’s aural soundscape. Goritsas, Scott, and Shaw each make thoughtful acting choices, and never do their characters feel like caricatures.

But Scheider is dealt a short hand: he’s often a bystander to the action rather than a participant in it. Dramaturgically, Scheider’s a bit of a third wheel, and so Dreyfuss and Shaw are in turn tasked with carrying much of the action — of which there isn’t a lot. The Shark Is Broken is a wordy and witty play, rather than an action-packed one, and the imbalance between the three roles is at its most apparent in moments immediately following Dreyfuss/Shaw spats.

In addition to being broken, the shark is also rather lengthy — ninety minutes sans intermission. The play feels like it would be more comfortable at the one-hour mark (and that makes sense, as it was an hour-long Fringe show in the UK before making the journey across the pond). Some of the longer sequences are fantastic — Dunn’s video design makes it feel as if the boat’s really rocking back and forth during a storm, and moments of montage are lovely. But it feels like there’s room in the text for further trims.

Look — if you’re a Jaws superfan (and judging by opening night, there’s a lot of you!), you’ll probably appreciate this show. It’s a neat look behind the curtain of what launched Spielberg’s career, and the connection between the generations Shaw is sentimental and fun. But if you’re like me — you can hum the theme, you’ve seen some clips, you vaguely recall seeing the film on a flight — this might be one to skip.

And no, there’s no shark.


The Shark Is Broken runs through November 6. Tickets are available here.


4 Responses to “REVIEW: The Shark Is Broken at Mirvish”

  1. Why is there no intermission during The Shark-Broken play?
    I am the designated writer for another woman inquiring about the same thing as I.

    Gail

  2. Such a shame that some didn’t appreciate the humour in the play I feel. Maybe although it’s based on the background of an American film; the input of British humour was a tad hard to connect with for some. I personally thoroughly enjoyed the entire production. I found the dialogue snappy, the scenery absorbing and well thought out as well, and most I,portantly, the actors were very believable in their roles, I’m sure if I went to see it again I’d find it just as amusing as my first encounter.
    I’m also puzzled that not having an interval appeared to carry such importance. Again, my personal opinion but I feel having ‘a break’ would have disrupted the flow of the production.

    I LOVED the play and look forward to seeing future performances with these actors

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Written By

Aisling is Intermission's Senior Editor and a breaking news reporter at the Toronto Star. She is President of the Canadian Theatre Critics Association. She also likes British playwright Sarah Kane, most songs by Taylor Swift, and her cat, Fig.