Slater plays Buddy Ackerman, the part created by Kevin Spacey on screen. Buddy is one of the most powerful men in the cut-throat world of Hollywood, the mastermind of a top studio’s high-grossing, ultra violent horror slate – and he’s the boss from hell. Guy, his eager and idealistic new assistant and would-be screenwriter, soon finds himself serving as Buddy’s personal slave. Hoping to be given his big break, Guy endures Buddy’s relentless abuse until he reaches breaking point, leading to a torturous showdown between mentor, protégé and lover, with devastating consequences.
Slater made his West End debut playing rebel Randle P McMurphy, immortalised on screen by Jack Nicholson, in September 2004 in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, which won him Best Actor prize in the 2005 Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers’ Choice Awards. He reprised his performance in a brief West End return season last year (See News, 15 Feb 2006).
Slater is joined in Swimming with Sharks by Matt Smith as Guy and Helen Baxendale as Dawn Lockard, a fellow film producer and romantic interest. The piece is adapted by Michael Lesslie, directed by Wilson Milam and designed by Dick Bird. It’s presented by Nick Frankfort and Tobias Round (formerly executive producer and general manager, respectively, of the Donmar Warehouse) for CMP, which commissioned the play, and Nica Burns and Max Weitzenhoffer for Nimax Theatres Ltd.
First night critics were asked by the show’s publicists not to watch the film original beforehand or reveal the key plot twists in their reviews. Those who had seen the film, by accident or design, found the stage version wanting by comparison, both in terms of the structure and the central performances. The exercise also reignited the debate about whether screen-to-stage crossovers make for legitimate or dramatically engaging theatre, with all agreeing that this one at least “offers scant justification” for the effort.
- by Terri Paddock