Review: Daytona at the Theatre Royal Bath starring Maureen Lipman
WE can never escape our past, no matter how incredibly hard we try to erase traumatic ordeals from our memory.
It simply catches up with us and, for some, with dreadful consequences. This in a nutshell is the powerful plot of Oliver Cotton’s compelling play Daytona.
As the curtain rises we witness a banal enough domestic scene. An elderly Jewish couple, Elli and Joe, are rehearsing for a dance competition in the living room of their Brooklyn flat.
This is the calm before the storm as we soon find out. Late that same night, Joe’s estranged brother Billy comes knocking on his door, nearly 30 years since he packed up his bags and disappeared never to be heard from again.
Dishevelled and very obviously unsettled by his annual holiday in Daytona, Florida, from which he has just returned, or rather fled, he soon weaves a tale of murder, changed or rather erased identity and revenge.
From there unfolds the deeply moving story of Joe, Elli and Billy; what led the young Austrians to New York soon after the WWII armistice, their battle with memory, trauma and desperate attempts to rebuild themselves and heal old wounds as best they can.
Maureen Lipman is simply mesmerising as Elli, a strong yet immensely flawed character harbouring a painful secret.
Her ability to alter her accent as memories emerge and take possession of her being, uncovering her true identity is extrememly impressive.
John Bowe, who plays tormented Billy, and Harry Shearer, flawless as good-hearted Joe, were both enormously touching as brothers whose complex relationship and rivalry resurfaces the minute they meet again.
Daytona is a jewel, a deeply humane story which must be told again and again.