“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, dueling 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.

Ian Shaw as Quint

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, here’s a taster:

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.

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