Entertainment & Arts

American Buffalo: reviews round-up

Damian Lewis as Teach in American Buffalo Image copyright johan persson
Image caption Damian Lewis as 'Teach' in American Buffalo

Damian Lewis is almost unrecognisable in his latest stage role in the West End.

Lewis stars alongside John Goodman and Tom Sturridge in David Mamet's explosive drama American Buffalo at Wyndham's Theatre.

The story centres on three small-time crooks, Walter "Teach" Cole (Lewis), junk shop owner Don Dubrow (John Goodman) and his protege Bobby (Tom Sturridge), who plan a heist to recover a coveted Buffalo nickel.

The 1975 play is regarded as a Mamet classic. Here's what the critics had to say about this new production, directed by Daniel Evans.

Image copyright Johan Persson
Image caption John Goodman (Don) and Tom Sturridge (Bob) in American Buffalo

The Telegraph - Dominic Cavendish

Lewis - the lynchpin of the show - can't be faulted for accent or technical accomplishment. He's almost unrecognisable as he struts into the store (clutter magnificently suspended from on high, too, in Paul Will's imposing design) in a magenta suit of period awfulness, slimeball shades to match, droopy 'horse-shoe' moustache the finishing comical touch. He's got the faux-confident, gesticulating swagger of Teach down pat - as well as a counterpoint wariness and vulnerability - but for all the bravura, his turn lacks animal desperation - you don't glimpse the precipice beneath.

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The Guardian - Michael Billington

My only slight cavil about this production is that Mamet's musical rhythms are affected by having one authentic American and two British actors in the cast. Otherwise, Daniel Evans's production is meticulous in its psychological and physical detail. Goodman, best known for his work with the Coen Brothers, is quite brilliant as Don. He has the capacity to convey the character's slow-moving thought-processes so that you actually see his seamed, rugged features flickering with guilt as he rationalises his betrayal of Bob. Throughout the actor conveys the troubled decency of a good man driven to self-betrayal.

Teach is the more showy role but Damian Lewis avoids the temptation for flashy, fast-talking virtuosity and instead excellently pins down the man's neediness. Lewis paces the junk-shop as if it were his private terrain, trashes everyone he refers to and resorts to panic-stricken violence.

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The Stage - Mark Shenton

It's thrillingly theatrical stuff, and director Daniel Evans extracts every ounce of feeling and fear from his three superb leading actors. A vocally and physically much-altered Damian Lewis captures perfectly the swagger of a man who suddenly spies an opportunity to make some cash. The bulky John Goodman exudes personality as the shop-owner while Tom Sturridge as his nervy sidekick suppresses his, both to equally stunning effect.

The play oozes atmosphere and menace, but has a compensating human heart. It's partly about the competitiveness and camaraderie of male friendship, and the playing of it is finely tuned to offer both. A fourth player is the magnificently crowded jumble of a set designed by Paul Wills.

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Daily Mail - Quentin Letts

Some hold this play to be a 20th-century American classic. I hesitate to go that far. It lacks the menace or linguistic spareness of Pinter (there is a lot of swearing).

The pathos, despite Goodman's heroic efforts, never quite grabs my guts. But if Mamet is your thing, you will surely want to catch this bespoke production.

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The Arts Desk - Demetrios Matheou

From the great, gasp-inducing rush of colour when the curtain opens on American Buffalo to the embrace that closes it, this revival of David Mamet's career-making rummage through the junkyard of the American Dream has you in a vice-like grip. It's been eagerly anticipated, and doesn't disappoint.

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theatreCat.com - Libby Purves

The first half is slowish, the energy rising after the interval... and probably an American audience would tune in sooner than me. But in the end, though I am not as a rule a fanatically keen Mamettian, the pathos and truth of these lost boys' plight became moving, and memorable.

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American Buffalo is at Wyndham's Theatre until 27 June

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