Daytona (review). Maureen Lipman in three-hander that explores love, revenge and family loyalty.

Hunting down the last dregs of the Third Reich has been in the news recently so Daytona, a shocking, poignant and moving story about a group of Holocaust survivors, which comes to Watford Palace Theatre next month, couldn’t be more apposite.

Monday, 12th August 2013, 9:00 am
Harry Shearer and John Bowe in Daytona. Photo by Manuel Harlan.
Harry Shearer and John Bowe in Daytona. Photo by Manuel Harlan.

Actor and writer Oliver Cotton has come up with a bittersweet tale about the lasting effects on a family of the Second World War and the relationship of two brothers with their childhood sweetheart.

It’s set in 1986. Daytona, Florida, is the summer vacation destination of retired Ohio real estate agent Billy Zimmerman or, as he’s now known, George Waites.

His annual holiday proves to be a bit of a catalyst that forces him to face up to the past, which includes finally confronting his estranged brother Joe and his wife Elli.

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Maureen Lipman and Harry Shearer.

Maureen Lipman and Harry Shearer play the 70-something New Yorkers, whose uneventful life centres around ballroom dancing competitions for senior citizens.

But it is John Bowe, as Billy, who dominates the story. He storms into the couple’s apartment one night after a 30 year estrangement (amazingly they appear to be living in the same place or how else would he have found them?), dressed in cast-offs, and on the run from the law.

Billy is overpowering, forceful, passionate, and loud (wow, is he loud!). He’s a maelstrom of emotions in contrast to his accountant brother who is so laid back that he’s almost comatose.

He has a story to tell that will change all their lives and, at the same time, uses the encounter to find answers to some long-overdue questions.

As the drama progresses playwright Cotton changes tack to reveal a tender love story and also to raise issues of religion, commitment, honour and revenge. There’s lots of Jewish humour coupled with thought-provoking comment.

Splendid performances are produced by all three leads.

Lipman is one of this country’s premier stage performers and her Elli beautifully drawn as one of those smart, well-preserved, stylish Jewish dames, who is a little bossy, a little domineering and enduring a secret heartache.

She’s also woefully under-used with only two brief scenes in the First Act.

In the Second Act it is her husband Joe who seemingly does a disappearing act with the interaction between the three kept to a minimum.

Shearer’s deadpan expression shows little emotion but there are cracks now and then that suggest he may know more than he’s letting on.

But this is very much Bowe’s stage, dominating every scene through Billy’s powerful persona.

Daytona makes engrossing watching. It’s currently at the newly opened Park Theatre, Finsbury Park, before embarking on a national tour that sees it run at Watford Palace Theatre from September 9-14.

For tickets call the box office 01923 225671 or visit www.watfordpalacetheatre.co.uk@LBOanne