Oliver Cotton's Daytona, which premiered at the Park Theatre last year and has now transferred to the Theatre Royal Haymarket, is a neat and intelligent affair. Only three characters ever grace the stage, but the demons they unleash cover a full forty years worth of horrors, absences and altered identities.
Septuagenarians Joe and Elli have a stable and apparently happy existence in their comfortable Brooklyn flat in 1986, but when Joe’s brother Billy turns up after thirty years of silence, all three are forced to confront their pasts and question the value of the lives they have led.
Billy has just performed an arguably dreadful and undoubtedly irreversible act, the consequences of which he cannot escape. The question is will Joe and Elli support him in facing them when doing so will necessitate accepting the truth about their own relationship.
Cotton piles the revelations one on top of the other so that we really are kept guessing for much of the time. Although we may look back on all of them together to realise how they create a coherent picture of unfulfilled lives, each one as it arises does generate a genuinely fresh twist or turn. In this way, we as much as the characters are forced to consider the consequences of not facing up to the truth, not pursuing our dreams, or trying to live as someone we are not.
This said, although the play only just exceeds two hours, it feels as if it could be shorter and sharper. The deliberate tactic of including characters stuttering and interrupting each other can help to make the affair feel a little rambling, although the cast do make the exchanges feel quite natural. Harry Shearer (think Mr Burns and Smithers from The Simpsons) and the play’s writer Oliver Cotton are strong and engaging as Joe and Billie respectively. It is, however, Maureen Lipman as Elli who steals the show with her sensitive demeanour, convincing gestures and magnetic presence.
Until 23 August 2014 at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, 18 Suffolk Street, London SW1Y 4HT with start times of 14.30 and 19.30. Tickets (£15-53): 020 7930 8800 or visit the Theatre Royal Haymarket website.
Londonist received a complimentary ticket and programme from Premiercomms.