Stage Review – Daytona

Playwright, Oliver Cotton has imposed a strict structure here and there is much substance to the story, but characterization fails to grab you.

These three actors, each wholly established in their creative careers, provide the whole performance. They portray characters from European Jewish backgrounds, with each one possessing long term American citizenship. The Holocaust – the horrors of which all three were involved and were witness to; is some forty years or so behind them. Least this was thought to be the case, until main character, Billy (John Bowe), is given a stark reminder of those dark days while holidaying in sunny Daytona, Florida, in the 1980s; the most unlikely of settings for nasty circumstance to rise up and bite him.

Billy - John Bowe and Joe - Harry Shearer in Daytona Photography by Manuel Harlan
Billy – John Bowe and Joe – Harry Shearer in Daytona
Photography by Manuel Harlan

So, and in no uncertain terms, Billy settles a score. He seeks out Joe (Harry Shearer) and Ellie (Maureen Lipman) to gain their support for his actions. This odd couple, with a shared passion for ballroom dancing, are strangely impassive to his plight. Slowly, we learn that this is because of past happenings, regarding Billy particularly, and his relationship history with the two. There is a dramatic triangle thing going on.

Ellie - Maureen Lipman and Billy - John Bowe Photography by Manuel Harlan
Ellie – Maureen Lipman and Billy – John Bowe
Photography by Manuel Harlan

This is a memory play. We learn about everything that has gone before through lengthy, drawn out monologues and jaded dialogue. Yes, the devil is in the detail, but, unfortunately, there is a tendency to bore you with it. Yet it is hard for me to pinpoint whether it is the script or the delivery which amounts to the dissatisfaction I felt with the play overall. It could be a case of miscasting, but it has to be said that the strong performance of Bowes is the saving grace at times. I have enjoyed the varied and highly talented work of Shearer and Lipman for many years, and perhaps I had simply set the bar too high in my expectation of the two in these particular roles. Lipman lacked lustre, and Shearer, unfortunately, did not quite ‘have the shoes for it’, dancing wise or otherwise. Published reviews to date have been fair to glowing so perhaps it was simply down to a bad night.

Ending on a positive however, conflicts are slowly revealed; as are affairs of the heart and affairs of the mind, so expect a few surprises.

Cast – in order of appearance
Maureen Lipman – Elli
Harry Shearer – Joe
John Bowe – Billy

scene from Daytona Photography by Manuel Harlan
scene from Daytona
Photography by Manuel Harlan

*** Three stars
Note: Reviewer, Debra Hall, attended the press night showing of Daytona on Monday 21st October at The Rep (Birmingham Repertory Theatre) in an official capacity on behalf of Remotegoat Stage. This review also published here

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