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American Buffalo

First Published 28 April 2015, Last Updated 28 April 2015

What’s it all about?

American Buffalo follows a trio of low-rent American chancers whose gander is temporarily lifted by the opportunity to make money at another’s expense. In attempting the coin heist – I say heist, it’s more of a smash and grab – they simply prove there is no honour among thieves and that the American Dream, as is so often the case, can be more of a nightmare.

Who’s in it?

As verbose arch-blagger Teach, Damian Lewis, making his first West End appearance since 2009’s The Misanthrope, struts around the Wyndham’s Theatre stage like a peacock who isn’t entirely convinced of his own beauty but is going to try his best to impress you anyway. He’s all slick suit and bluster, preaching fast enough that hopefully no-one will spot the gaps in his selfish sermon.

John Goodman, in his West End debut, makes for an avuncular, tired, junk shop-owning Don. Hands thrust into his comfort blanket of a cardigan, he’s filled with the unspoken sadness of a lifetime’s attempts to get by.

Tom Sturridge completes the trio as a desperate, dependent, wit-lacking Bobby; a surrogate son to Don, searching for anything to justify his existence.

What should I look out for?

Paul Wills’ stunning treasure trove, junk store set, with its suspended ceiling of detritus and bric-a-brac.

The contrast between the large, bold performances of Lewis and Sturridge, and the quiet, painful sadness and heart in Goodman’s.

In a nutshell?

Hopelessness and helplessness given a splash of old-fashioned masculinity, thumped with bravado and dressed with Hollywood star quality.

Who was in the press night crowd?

From what we saw, this was one leading man-rich crowd. Game Of Thrones’ Kit Harington, Vera’s Kenny Doughty and Downton Abbey’s Nigel Harman all did their bit to lift the collective attractiveness of the audience.

What’s being said on Twitter?

@beccyward24 Listen up kids, you gotta go see @AmBuffaloPlay immediately. It is phenomenal. #AmericanBuffalo

@abigailthaw #AmericanBuffalo Great show tonight. All 3 actors uniquely superb. Good to see John Goodman as brilliant on stage as on screen

Will I like it?

The many reasons to see American Buffalo are more plentiful than the objects of unknown value in Don’s shop. If you love a stage-dominating performance, Lewis’ Teach is an antihero superstar. If a glimpse into the soul of ground down humanity is more your thing, Goodman’s Don could bring you to tears. It’s worth taking a look for the gasp, which was audible on press night, when the curtain rises and Wills’ set is revealed.


American Buffalo plays at the Wyndham’s Theatre until 27 June. You can book tickets through the show’s website.


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