This post was originally posted on The Daily Jaws.
If “Jaws” has a day of the year, it’s probably 4 July or possibly 29/30 July to coincide with the attack on the USS Indianapolis. I suspect for some fans of the movie, there’s not a day that goes by that isn’t Jaws day. For me Sundays have often been my Jaws day – when I was a child, and had recorded “Jaws” off TV, I would watch it many weeks on a Sunday (the only day I didn’t have school). This year, Sunday 23 January was a very special Jaws Day for me and this post will take you through my day.
To start the day off, I had to take the train to London from Cardiff, where I live. Having been up late watching the Cincinnati Bengals win in the Divisional Round of the American Football playoffs, I was quite tired, but settled back into my train seat with a refreshing cup of tea. To kick-start the Jaws element of the day, I passed the almost 3 hour trip (thanks to engineering works and detours) by listening to some favourite episodes (though it took a while to find some of them due to the cryptic titles of episodes) of the magnificent “Jaws for a Minute” podcast.
Once in London, it was time for some lunch. I couldn’t think of anything Jaws-related to have, so I decided to walk straight ahead until I found a restaurant (still listening to podcast episodes as I went – particularly those related to the Indianapolis speech).
After lunch, it was a short walk over to the Ambassador’s Theatre to watch “The Shark is Broken” again.
I had already seen this back in October, but it was so great that I wanted to see it again – finding the opportunity to do so had been the complication. But this Jaws Day was the perfect opportunity. I have already done a detailed post about my review of the play, so won’t add much more here.
I still can’t get over just how fabulous the set design is.
A couple of things to point out about the play that I didn’t comment on before; before the play starts the music (I think I’m right in saying) is from around 1974 so helps you get into the mood of being in the time when “Jaws” was being made. Second, I just cannot believe that the play hasn’t been nominated for more awards. I guess you could say the same for the film in some ways. It’s criminal that the play (by which I mean all aspects, including screenplay, the work of all three actors, etc.) hasn’t got more recognition.
After the performance, I went outside in the hope of meeting the actors themselves and getting their signatures. I didn’t have to wait too long and managed to get all three to sign the cover of my copy of the programme.
All three were such gentlemen, very patient with all the people waiting, and great to chat to. Liam Murray Scott was the first one that I got to and he seemed to be delighted to get first choice of where to sign. In fact it’s fair to say, and we laughed about this, that he seemed to be taking his role out into the real world. That he added an additional Jaws line to the signature was the icing on the cake. I then got the signature of Demetri Goritsas, followed by Ian Shaw. I have to say that I love the symmetry of how the signatures have ended up – like a mirror of the credits on the actual movie (a topic that comes up in the play). I had a short chat with Ian – commenting in particular on how it was interesting that two roles he’s played – the one in this play and as Captain Tibbetts in the excellent BBC docu-dramatization “Hiroshima” – have had a connection with the bombing of Hiroshima (of which I have much interest and comes up in my research, teaching, and will feature in my next novel). It was actually partly due to the role in “Hiroshima” that Ian decided to write “The Shark is Broken”. After the short chat, I even managed to get a picture with Ian (note my Jaws-related T-shirt – although I suspect I ended up looking like a yellow barrel stage prop in my seat close to the front during the play)
By this time, Demetri had left, but Liam was still around and it was possible to get a picture of him with Ian – for which they were allowed to take off their face masks.
I now had about an hour until the next part of the day, so I went for a wander and had some food (as I knew dinner would be late and probably just what I could get on a train), all while listening to the “Jaws” soundtrack.
It was then on to the Picturehouse Central to watch “Jaws” itself. While the number of times I have seen the movie is easily in three figures, this was the first time to see it in the cinema. It may have also been the first time to see it on the big screen. I thought that I saw it at an outdoor cinema in France once (I still love the French title of “Jaws”: “Les Dents Da La Mer” (literally “The teeth of the sea”)) – which was fun due to seeing the shark’s head appear from amongst the stars of a beautifully clear night – but the more I think about it, the more I think it was probably “Jaws 2” (which I’m certain that I saw at this place) that I saw and I never also saw “Jaws” there.
The first thing that struck me as people came into the cinema (it was nearly full by the time the performance started) was how many families had come to see it – many with quite young children. The film is now a 12A certificate in the UK, meaning nobody under the age of 12 is allowed to see the film without an adult. It was great to see so many people there and, I suspect in many cases, getting to see the film for the first time (I tried to keep an eye out for their reaction when Ben Gardner’s head popped out!). In fact, from conversations that I could overhear, it wasn’t only the younger members of the audience who were seeing the film for the first time. But there were also many of us who had seen it many, many times. However, as confirmed by a show of hands when asked by the MC before the film started, it was the first time to see it in the cinema for about 50% of us there. (About three quarters had seen the play, with some, like me, having seen it that day).
Just as I have written about in relation to listening to vinyl records, there are times when things are just meant to be done in a particular way. Listening to vinyl can be more immersive than just playing music (even through the same speakers) than having MP3 running. Films are meant to be seen at the cinema. The experience is just so different. This was the right way to see “Jaws” (the other ways I would like to see it, however, are when accompanied by a full orchestra or when you watching it while sitting on rubber rings on the water though). On top of the experience being more immersive (sorry, there really is no better word for this), you can see things that you don’t spot on a TV (no matter how much bigger the screens are now compared to 40 years ago… or even how much sharper a Blu Ray may be to a cinema showing), though I admit, some of this was also due to the observations pointed out during episodes of the “Jaws for a Minute” podcast or from posts on The Daily Jaws.
As I said, I have seen the movie well over 100 times, but for the first time I really felt sad when Bruce was blown up. It was an odd feeling. Perhaps it was due to knowing the my Jaws Day was nearing the end, or perhaps it was a combination of other factors (after all it’s not the shark’s fault that people kept getting into his territory… and all but Chrissie’s death (Pipet lives by the way – seeing the images on the big screen, I’m certain that it’s Pipet on the bridge as people go to the Pond) were avoidable if the Mayor hadn’t made such bad decisions).
But the Jaws Day wasn’t over yet. After the showing, Demetri Goritsas, Ian Shaw, and Liam Murray Scott came up to the front to answer questions – first from the MC and then from the audience. The actors were introduced in turn; Demetri, Liam, and then Ian. Liam allowed Ian to have the centre seat – which in many ways was appropriate, but part of me was amused by the visual after what we had just seen with Bruce and Quint on the screen behind them.
I cannot remember all of the questions and answers – and at least one seemed to be not for public disclosure. A couple of things did stand out. First, negotiations are happening about a UK (or wider) tour. I really hope this happens. There has also been some discussion about recording the play for TV/DVD. However, Ian gave a very good, detailed explanation about the problems with this – key issues being that in a theatre, the audience, regardless of how amazing the set it, know that they need to be part of the artistic process in accepting the limitations of the venue and making it feel real. We know the Orca isn’t whole and the waves aren’t real, but we happily suspend that aspect and very soon believe that we really are there in 1974 with the cast (just as we also believe that they are Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, and Richard Dreyfus). On a TV/DVD this cannot be done in the same way – there would be expectations for real waves, for example. Such a production, you could imagine, would then come across some of the issues that “Jaws” itself faced. There are also other issues to do with the way that the actors project their voices, for example. Whatever the challenges, I really hope that they find a way to deal with them – if people can get the Bruces to work in some way, surely a solution to these can be found – as there will be thousands (millions?) of fans who will just never get a chance to see the play. Also, I assume that the DVD would bring more money to the three actors (and the rest of the production team) and they honestly deserve all the rewards they can get for this. Some more merchandise related to the play would help with this too (there’s only a programme at the moment).
One thing I was particularly glad to hear was that Robert Shaw did know just how special the Indianapolis Speech was. Robert died tragically young and, as is clear in the play, wanted to do more writing and be known for that writing. He may never have achieved the first part, but the second part was done (though probably not in the way he would have hoped). The Indianapolis Speech is the greatest movie monologue ever (and which I use at every opportunity when teaching about the bombing of Hiroshima or how there are aspects of fact even in fictional dramatizations). While it was not created from nothing by Robert Shaw, it’s clear that he made it what it was. Not only in terms of its delivery, but also in how it was written. I was delighted to hear from Ian that his dad and Steven Spielberg understood that the movie had gone up another notch when Robert Shaw delivered the final version.
After the Q&A was completed, it was time to make my way back to Cardiff. To round off my Jaws Day there was only one tune I could listen to (before switching back to the NFL playoff coverage).
It was such a special day and one which I will treasure for the rest of my life.