David Mamet’s classic play American Buffalo comes to the West End with a stellar cast and a very limited 10 week run. Will it become the ticket to try to get? I saw it last night and I’d say it’s definitely the show to catch in the West End above all others over the next 10 weeks.
I’ve made it no secret on this blog about my admiration for David Mamet, his plays, films and other writings about theatre/film/politics have had a profound effect on me as I completed my BA in Theatre Studies at Rose Bruford (I focused on his works for one of my main assignments), as an actor, producer and as a human being. If you’ve never witnessed a play of his, go and see American Buffalo his seminal work. His writing is erudite, witty and intense.
A highlight for me last night was getting to actually meet David Mamet who was in the audience just in front of me. Sometimes meeting your hero can be disappointing, not so last night. However that’s a post for a day or so. Back to the play.
This is a three hander set in the junk shop of Don Dubrow. John Goodman couldn’t have been more ideally cast. His bearing and nuanced performance as Don gives the play its centre and axis point between the volatile Bob and intimidating Teach.
Tom Sturridge’s star is in ascendancy at present and his performance here will certainly continue that. Bob is a complicated character, struggling with addiction and not quite with it mentally. Tom Sturridge doesn’t allow him to become a figure of pity though or a cliché. He is the heart of the play.
Damien Lewis revels in his character Teach. His transformation into a hard talking and criminal Teach is startling. He provides much of the wit along with the violence and intensity of the piece.
Mamet has a way of writing male dialogue that is authentic as well as rhythmic. I really noticed this in American Buffalo the pace and punch of the dialogue was a joy to watch. Needless to say there are expletives aplenty. Those that know me find it a bit of a paradox that I enjoy Mamet so much despite my usual disdain for potty mouthed plays. Mamet doesn’t write this way for shock value or because he has run out of words. His scripting is tight, intelligent and precise that’s why the expletives work.
Daniel Evans as director allows the characters and text to speak. He’s brought this play alive, keeping it set in the 1970’s is wise and the set by Paul Wills frames the action wonderfully.
Mamet can sometimes be seen as a very “blokey” writer, and I’ll be interested to read what female critics thought of this play. For me though it really encapsulates how men communicate or rather miscommunicate. Daniel Evans makes this observation in the program; “Mamet says something really interesting about his dialogue. He says that his characters never speak the desire, they only speak that which they think will bring about the desire.” In the 40 years since this play was written, I don’t think too much has changed in the way men communicate.
I can imagine tickets for this are pretty hard to come by already, but make sure you get one somehow, as writing, directing and acting like this is well worth your time and money to catch.
STARS : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
To see what others thought check out the reviews compilation at OfficialTheatre.com