American Buffalo – Wyndham’s Theatre

Playwright David Mamet has not always been liked by the public, causing many complaints in the 80’s about the bad language used in his plays. The hilarious comedy, American Buffalo, is certainly no exception to this rule with so many expletives that a warning notice has had to be displayed in the foyer!

American Buffalo premiered in 1975 and was later turned into a film starring Dustin Hoffman (1996). Don (John Goodman) owns a junk shop, full of bits and bobs. After he sells an American Buffalo coin to a customer for what he believes is only a fraction of its worth, he feels cheated and plots to break in to the mans house and steal the coin back.

David Mamet’s work was last seen at the Playhouse Theatre with Speed the Plow, a play which was overshadowed by Hollywood celebrity Lindsay Lohan taking the starring role. She wasn’t actually a bad actor but what was dull was the story and so I was intrigued to go and check out American Buffalo and see if that was just a one off.

Damian Lewis last performed in the West End in 2009 in Misanthorpe but also famously played the Wolf in Into The Woods at the Donmar in the 90’s. He has visually transformed himself for the role of Teach and is unrecognisable as the 1970’s cool-man. Most famous in recent years for hit TV shows Homeland and Band of Brothers, audiences are flocking to see him live on stage and he does a brilliant job with the role (although has quite the potty mouth). John Goodman, best known for playing Dan Conner in the late 80’s American series Roseanne, is equally as brilliant as junk shop owner Don. He plays the kind, loveable character whilst also having a sense of authority about him. Tom Sturridge plays youngster Bob brilliantly. With his erratic behaviour you are never quite sure if he is drugged up to his eyeballs or just mentally challenged but as the play goes on this becomes clearer. Tom is without a doubt the star performer in this play which has three very talented actors.

The set design of American Buffalo, by Paul Wills, is extraordinary. Set entirely inside Don’s Resale Shop (a junkshop) there are a million different niknaks sitting on filthy shelves which must take hours to set up up every day. Hanging from the roof of the theatre on long metal chains are old bicycles, trolleys and chairs, fully encompassing the set with junk. As if this design wasn’t clever and intricate enough, the shop has been displayed on stage slanted, to bring the shops space to life.

David Mamet, not content with having hollywood stars just on the West End stage is also working on a Broadway production of China Doll, starring Al Pacino. And if its anything like American Buffalo, its sure to be a hit.

Reviewed by West End Wilma

American Buffalo is playing at the Wyndhams Theatre until 27 June 2015. Click here for tickets

Photo: Johan Persson