THREE men is a boat. It could be the start of an old-school joke, only in this case the boat is The Orca, the three men, the stars of the blockbuster that changed cinema forever, Jaws.
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ASSEMBLY STUDIO 3, George Square
In Martha’s Vineyard, 1974, three iconic actors are holed up together while enduring endless delays, studio politics and foul weather.
In a claustrophobic cabin, Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw wait to be called for their next scene. It has already been a long wait and with Bruce the shark broken again, tempers are fraying as the shoot drags on, and on. If not yet stir-crazy, all are on the brink.
As Shaw and Dreyfuss rile each other, the bickering comes quick and fast, interspersed with attempts to assuage the boredom, but cards games and shove ha-penny fail to prevent the simmering tensions erupting into violent clashes.
Brokering the peace between the explosive Robert Shaw, played by Shaw's son Ian with an unsettling familial resemblance to his father, and Liam Murray Scott's charismatic if dim Richard Dreyfuss is Duncan Henderson's nicely sardonic Roy Scheider.
Despite their very differing natures, all are driven by ego and insecurity, in what is a fascinating insight into the fragility of even the most lauded performers.
In Dreyfuss it manifests itself as neurotic introspection - his work is never good enough.
Scheider, meanwhile, is a world-weary jobbing actor, while Shaw turns to the bottle, as his father did before him, for comfort.
As each share tales, many biographical in nature, a camaraderie shines through the conflict, Dreyfuss becoming the archetypal foil for Shaw. As his father, Ian Shaw is gloriously relaxed, sharing a commanding stage, and no doubt screen presence, that obviously runs in the family.
Murray Scott is immensely watchable as Dreyfuss with a child-like energy and sense of wonder that makes him instantly likeable. Understated, but never over-looked, Henderson makes it look easy. Perfect casting.
Inspired by Shaw Snr's diaries, the script by Shaw Jnr and Joseph Nixon is sharp and on point. Pacey it never falters. Set design, also by Duncan Henderson, may be stripped back but is functional and effective. Direction by Guy Masterson is light.
So, The Shark Is Broken is a beautifully crafted piece of theatre of a calibre seldom seen at the Fringe. Immaculate performances and a sublime script make it one of the easiest five stars I've ever awarded. You should see it, if you can.
Queue for returns and watch for extra performances.
Until 25 August