Daytona, a new play by Oliver Cotton, is as dramatic as a play can be. But that's about it.
The performers don't quite pull it off from a script that is trying too hard to be shocking and dramatic, and the story doesn't quite reach the level of believability.
Maureen Lipman plays Elli, longtime wife to Joe (Harry Shearer). Set in 1986 Brooklyn, they lead a simple life. Both retired, former accountant Joe still finds time to manage the taxes of one client, while at the same time pursuing his and Elli's hobby of ballroom dancing.
One day there is a knock on the door, and it's Joe's brother Billy (John Bowe), who Joe has not seen in more than 30 years. What is the reason for Billy's visit after all this time? You see, both Joe and Billy escaped a concentration camp back in 1945 and found their way to America, where they were about to set up a business together. But then, at the very last second, Billy left and never came back. Billy took on a whole new life and identity, got married, and had kids. Then, on recent holiday in Daytona, Florida, Billy recognised one of the soldiers from the concentration camp, Franz Gruber, now an old man just like himself, and shot and killed him, then and there, in front of his family, and Gruber's family. Billy has now travelled all the way to Brooklyn to let Joe know that this evil man, a man who Billy saw from 1943 to 1945 beat people to death with a shovel, was dead. And this is just the first act.
In the second act, the history between Elli and Billy is revealed. And this is pretty much the plot of Daytona.
Lipman, with many theatre credits to her name, gives the best performance of the three. It is a very nuanced performance, strong and then submissive when needed. Bowe, on the other hand, almost shouts his lines, very loud and aggressive, his presence on stage impossible to overlooke. Shearer, meanwhile, does not quite work in his role. One of the voices in the Simpsons and an original member of Spinal Tap, Shearer does not at all seem confident on stage, and at times it seems he is reciting as opposed to acting out his lines.
Watching these actors in this two-act play is just that, watching actors in a play, versus watching a play with actors. Daytona does not quite feel realistic and the performances don't quite live up to expectations.
Daytona is now playing at the new Park Theatre in Finsbury Park.