American Buffalo – Wyndham’s Theatre

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David Mamet is back in the West End and the stars are turning out once more to have a go at this mans machine gun like wordplay. It’s hot on the heels of course of last years Speed the Plow in which it was Lindsey Lohan that attempted (and failed) to get to grips with this fast and testing writer. It takes skill, panache and some damn good acting skills to pull off Mamet and I’m pleased to say that these guys have that in spades.

The threesome that are Damian Lewis, John Goodman and Tom Sturridge inhabit Paul Wills exquisitely adorned set with a slick, confident ease under the direction of Daniel Evans. That quick fire dialogue of Mamet’s falls from the trio with a naturalism that makes good theatre really great.

Set in Don’s ramshackle junk shop in the seventies the action follows a trio that are out for some form of ill advised revenge. Don (Goodman) has sold a rare Buffalo nickel and only afterwards realised that he has drastically undercharged. With the excitable Teach (Lewis) firing him up Don decides that they need to take action and get the nickel back. Teach is all bravado and bluster though with few brain cells to match his braun. The third of the trio is Bob (Sturridge) afflicted with a mental illness which potentially is the driving factor behind the paternal attitude shown towards him by Don. With some fascinating shifting dynamics this is a play that is more about relationships and the interaction of three men than the hunt for a nickel.

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Lewis is in fine form as the tough and hot headed Teach. Bedecked in a plum suit that shouts confidence with side burns that you could park your car on this is a performance that is at times brutal with uncertainty never too far away from the surface. Lewis’ performance handles his brash bullishness perfectly and resists the temptation to slip into caricature. With moments of dark comedy he extracts laughs from every possible line ramping it up further particularly in the second act.

As the mentally challenged Bob there is a touching and nicely observed performance from Sturridge. The innocence and naivety shown in this grimy and tough world of criminality makes him look even more vulnerable. It goes some way to explaining the Fatherly way in which Goodman’s Don looks upon him and does what he can to protect him throughout. The moving scenes at the close leave the audience able to hear a pin drop.

Goodman is effortless in his approach to the often bewildered and but nearly always well meaning Don. With a growling voice that resonates wonderfully around the small Wyndham’s auditorium Goodman manages the flip from lower league criminal to protective and concerned father figure with ease. He spits the dialogue out with a mix of high emotion and downright rage and offers an utterly absorbing and engaging performance.

This is an exceptionally well performed piece of brilliantly written theatre. The big names are merely an aside all of which give quite brilliant performances.

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