American Buffalo - Review

American Playwright, David Mamet, has the knack of providing his characters with dialogue that is naturalistic, albeit heavily seasoned with expletives.

The rhythmic patterns of speech that he gives to his often inarticulate characters are reminiscent of Pinter – the repetition of dialogue, the questioning is all there but with no time for the pauses –the dialogue fairly crackled.

Set in a junk shop, three criminals plan a robbery involving a coin collection. Whilst the play deals with the lead up to the robbery it really examines the dynamics between the trio and the effect that business deals have on friendship.

The New Venture has a fine reputation for its presentation of modern American drama and this production enhanced it. There was taut direction from James Newton who extracted three excellent and contrasting performances from his cast. None of them would not have looked out of place in an episode of The Sopranos.

Jim Calderwood had the difficult task of portraying Teach, a highly neurotic and unstable character. At first his delivery was a little too fast and lacked clarity but once settled he gave a performance that brought out the different facets of the man’s personality – venomous in venting his spleen and always with the underlying threat of danger.

As Don, the junk shop owner and leader of the group, Tom A Robinson inhabited the role and produced a fine characterisation of an intriguing figure. His relationship with the third character, Bob, was enigmatic. Was there anything behind his over protectiveness of the young lad?

Ben Pritchard did well in displaying the duality of Bob’s personality – a simple soul yet cunning enough when it came to self interest.

Deserving of special mention was the realistic setting of the junk shop, full on items with tiny little price tags on them including items of clothing that some of the characters wore – a humorous touch.

The production presented an evening of raw theatre at its best.

An idle thought on the way home – if all the expletives had been deleted the play could have been performed in one act instead of two!

Barrie Jerram
22 May 2007