As Rolls Royce productions go, they don’t get much better than this. Homegrown screen and stage star Damian Lewis returning the stage after a six-year absence, and for the first time since Homeland made him a mega mega international star (after seeing him in this and Band of Brothers, my nephews in Chicago simply refuse to believe Lewis isn’t American). Hollywood royalty, and Coen Brothers legend, John Goodman making his London stage debut. And bright young British thing Tom Sturridge to complete the trio. Plus, actor-turned Sheffield Crucible artistic director Daniel Evans, and Lewis’ Guildhall old drama school mate, making his West End directing debut.
Some credentials, you know what I’m sayin’ (in Mamet speak). And then, of course, there’s the play itself. David Mamet‘s 1975 three-hander about small-time crooks with disastrously mis-handling a coin heist (the American Buffalo of the title) is considered a modern classic. Adapted for the screen in 1996, it starred Dustin Hoffman as Teach, the part now taken by Lewis. It’s a part that’s also been tackled by the likes of Robert Duvall, Al Pacino and, most recently in London, William H Macy. The last, another Coen veteran and frequent Mamet collaborator, in fact starred as Bobby in the world premiere of American Buffalo and, 25 years later, took on Teach in an Atlantic Theatre Company co-production that opened at the Donmar Warehouse before transferring to New York.
But it’s friendship b/t #TomSturridge‘s feral junkie & genial #JohnGoodman (Hollywood, pls can we keep him?) that brought a tear to my eye — Terri Paddock (@TerriPaddock) April 27, 2015
I caught that production, and as I watched last night at Wyndham’s, it came back to me in flashes. Macy is an incredible character actor who seems to have the label of ‘one of of life’s losers’ affixed to his forehead. Lewis is much more the leading man material and, after the shock of his 1970s makeover, you’re briefly taken in my his swagger. The self-delusion becomes more gradually apparent as you try to follow Teach’s loopy, “know-it-all who knows nothing” logic.
It’s a high-energy performance that’s beautifully balanced out by John Goodman‘s oh-so natural performance as Donny, who becomes increasingly perplexed and uneasy as the heist goes wrong and he doubts his touching, fatherly relationship with Tom Sturridge’s twitchily feral junkie Bobbie.
And then there’s the REAL star of the show: Paul Wills‘ magnificent, towering junk-shop set, whose walls of bric-a-brac come tumbling down around Lewis in a ferocious denouement. Above the shop hangs a tangled web of chains and more junk, a sort of mobile of life’s detritus, ever dangling above these lowly characters’ heads.
American Buffalo continues until 27 June 2015 at the West End’s Wyndham’s Theatre.
Interview with American Buffalo stars
What the Papers Say
GUARDIAN: FOUR STARS
Michael Billington: A sign in the foyer says “Please be warned this play contains explicit language”. But the beauty of David Mamet’s 40-year-old play is how much of its meaning remains implicit.
THEATRECAT: FOUR STARS
Libby Purves: The marvellous junk-shop set by Paul Wills comes into its own when Damian Lewis finally loses control and trashes it… The pathos and truth of these lost boys’ plight is moving.
EVENING STANDARD: FOUR STARS
Henry Hitchings: Mamet’s breakthrough 1975 play puts male relationships under the microscope and is a gift to actors. This starry revival boasts three fine performances and moments of abrasive comedy.
TIME OUT: THREE STARS
It would be mean, cheap and generally a bit dickish to say that Damian Lewis’ big post-Homeland, Wolf Hall return to the London stage is overshadowed by some comedy facial hair but it’s distracting.
TELEGRAPH: THREE STARS
Dominic Cavendish: Despite much to admire in the performance of its star Damian Lewis, this revival of David Mamet’s classic is a little underwhelming… Enjoyable enough but a bit dime-a-dozen.
DAILY MAIL: THREE STARS
Quentin Letts: Damian Lewis in Tom Selleck soup-strainer moustache shocker! American Buffalo lacks the menace or linguistic spareness of Pinter, but if Mamet is your thing, you’ll want to catch this.
THE STAGE: FOUR STARS
Mark Shenton: Watching this bristling and bruising, tense yet tender revival of David Mamet’s 1975 play American Buffalo, I was thrilled to be reminded of how brilliantly Mamet can write.
WALES ONLINE: FOUR STARS
Homeland star Damian Lewis and American actor John Goodman have teamed up for the London production In the hands of Rhondda-born actor/director Daniel Evans.
THE ARTS DESK: FOUR STARS
Demetrios Matheo: From the rush of colour when the curtain opens to the embrace that closes it, American Buffalo keeps you in a vice-like grip…Damian Lewis tears up the stage, literally.
BRITISH THEATRE GUIDE: FOUR STARS
Philip Fisher: The producers of Daniel Evans’ witty revival of this David Mamet comedy from 1975 have spared no expense in bringing what is likely to be one of London’s hottest properties to the stage
FIRST NIGHT FEATURES
American Buffalo Star Damian Lewis Says Wife Likes New Look
Louise Jury: Lewis was sporting the period-appropriate facial hair for the role of petty crook Teach in American Buffalo. He says wife Helen McCrory is a fan of the 70s ‘porn-star moustache’.
American Buffalo: What’s It All About?
Matthew Amer: Official London Theatre’s senior reporter gives a great dummy’s guide to the play and production. Who’s in it? What to look out for? Who as in the first night crowd? Will I like it?…
Backstage secrets of American Buffalo: ‘We’re acting out…
Tom Sturridge:The more you read the play, the more you see a reflection of all the ugly traits in all of us”. The three stars explain how they’re grappling with ‘primal issues of manhood’ in Mamet.
John Goodman: The big star with a small mouth lands in London…
He is one of American cinema’s most ebullient and best-loved character actors, a big man with a big presence and a big voice. Now John Goodman is appearing on the London stage for the first time.
John Goodman: ‘There were many times I could have gone under’
In 1975, when he was 23, John Goodman moved to New York to make it as an actor. He had no money, no agent and no contacts. His father, Leslie, had died when Goodman was two years old.
Actor Tom Sturridge on playing the scoundrel
Tom Sturridge is an actor who’s so far been better known for his relationships with his fiancée, Sienna Miller, and his best friend, Robert Pattinson, than for his own acting CV.
WAGS: HELEN & SIENNA
Damian Lewis’ and Tom Sturridge’s other halves – a.k.a. actresses Helen McCrory and Sienna Miller – have generated nearly as many headlines for American Buffalo as the men have. McCrory, for her new film A Little Chaos, and approach to parenting, and Miller for, um, going out without any make-up on… Tabloids, eh?
Damian Lewis is Joined by Wife Helen McCrory at Buffalo
After shocking fans with his radical new moustachioed look, Damian Lewis took to the stage for his West End play American Buffalo’s opening night on Monday.
Sienna Miller Cheers on Fiance Tom Sturridge at Opening Night
She recently performed on Broadway in Cabaret, with her doting partner Tom Sturridge cheering her on but the tables were turned for Sienna Miller on Monday night. The 33-year-old blonde…
Damian Lewis and Wife Helen McCrory Attend A Little Chaos Premiere
They have been married for nearly eight years, and Damian Lewis made sure he was there to support his wife Helen McCrory at the London premiere of her film, A Little Chaos.
Helen McCrory Interview: on Motherhood and Damian Lewis
She may be diminutive, but every fibre of McCrory’s 5ft 3in packs an indomitable punch. Everything she does, she does with all of her, from the pub laugh that constantly cracks the air to…
Make-up free Sienna Miller is Low-key in Leggings
Sienna Miller was making the most of some down-time as she stepped out in a casual outfit on Monday morning. The 33-year-old actress tried to keep a low profile as she ventured out…
Damian Lewis Unrecognisable After ’70s Makeover
Damian Lewis is teaming up with American actor John Goodman in the American Buffalo directed by Welshman Daniel Evans. Do you recognise him with his lambchop sideburns and bushy moustache?
American Buffalo: Rehearsal Pictures of Lewis, Goodman, Sturridge
Damian Lewis, whose last play was The Misanthrope in 2009 with Keira Knightly, is starring in American Buffalo which opens this week. He’s joined on stage by Hollywood actor John Goodman.
First-look Production Photos of Damian Lewis & John Goodman
A first look at the new West End production of David Mamet’s American classic American Buffalo, directed by Daniel Evans.