Review - 'Daytona' at Theatre Royal Haymarket starring Maureen Lipman
Premiered last year at the new Park Theatre in North London, which has recently celebrated its first anniversary, Oliver Cotton's Daytona now transfers to the West End, and though its only there as an eight-week summer 'filler', it makes for a fulfilling evening.
It is a nice accolade for the Park, so soon in its young life, to already bring a play to the West End (another visiting company has also already transferred another play Yellow Face to the National after its Park premiere). But it is also pleasing for Cotton - an actor-turned-playwright - to have a play transfer to such a prestigious theatre, especially after a previous play of his, Wet Weather Cover, suffered the indignity of transferring from one grimy house to another (the King's Head to the Arts), only to collapse at the latter days later.
It seems at first to be nothing more than a conventional domestic drama about a long-married couple, Ellie and Joe, living in 80s New York (the Twin Towers are still standing on the skyline of Ben Stones's set behind their apartment), and a reunion with Joe's long-estranged brother Billy, who has been absent from their lives for 30 years. But as the play unfolds, we discover that they are all Austrian Jews and holocaust survivors who've made new lives in America.
Much of the pleasure of the play resides in the revelation of two main plot points, so I won't spoil that pleasure by revealing them here. The other pleasure, though, is in the watchful and subtle trio of performances of the veteran cast, including the playwright Oliver Cotton himself as the returning brother. At least he can't blame anyone else for his lines, but he doesn't need to: he pays his writing his own compliment of making it seem effortless and natural.
Maureen Lipman is fierce, formidable and fine, by turns, as the wife with a long-suppressed secret, and Harry Shearer -- the voice of several characters in TV's The Simpsons -- captures the wounded grace of the husband perfectly. This is a touching and graceful, if old-fashioned, West End evening. It deserves to succeed.
"What begins as a play about the killing of a Nazi winds up as a deeply moving love story in old age, and in the final scene it transcends words as Lipman and Shearer perform a captivating quickstep together, with only Billy as their audience."
Charles Spencer for The Daily Telegraph
"There's real potential in the premise; it's because of authorial clumsiness in the way the idea is handled that the play comes over as hollow and unearned."
Paul Taylor for The Independent
"Daytona is overstuffed, and a lack of focus means it never drives home any of the points it seems interested in making."
Henry Hitchings for The Evening Standard