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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Daytona
Park Theatre Summer 2013; Haymarket Theatre Summer 2014

In Oliver Cotton's new play, set in New York in 1986, an elderly couple keep romance alive by dancing and entering ballroom dance contests, but that's not what the play is about. 

The man's brother, who he hasn't seen in thirty years, reappears, but the reunion doesn't take up much of the play's attention. 

The brother, a Holocaust survivor like the other two, encountered a Concentration Camp guard in a Florida hotel, and although that is very central to the plot, the meeting's results and their ramifications aren't where the play's heart is. 

We are told of two people who completely changed their lives and identities in mid-life and are invited to consider the costs of such self-reinvention, but only briefly. 

Thirty years ago one of the brothers had an affair with the other's wife, and the play focusses on that as the most significant part of the whole story. 

In other words, of all the things the play could have been about, the playwright chose the least original, least interesting and most banal. 

You are likely to leave the theatre wondering whether that actually was the Nazi in that Florida hotel – it's left uncertain – and how that uncertainty colours what followed. 

You may be inclined to ruminate on the pluses and minuses of changing one's identity. You might even like to know whether they win the big dance contest coming up. 

You are not going to care a bit about who slept with who thirty years ago. 

Cotton's play doesn't suffer from a lack of invention or even an over-abundance of potential plot lines. Its mistake lies in misjudging which of its diverse stories and themes are really worth putting at the centre, and thus you are likely to find Daytona far more frustrating than satisfying. 

Director David Grindley has to fight constantly to make us look Here and devote our emotions to This when we're really more interested in That and more involved There, and it is to his credit and that of his hard-working actors that we do follow them even as we would rather they spent more time on what the script makes them skim past.

John Bowe has the flashiest role as the long-lost brother, and effectively captures the jumble of emotions generated by both his Florida encounter and this awkward reunion. 

Offstage through most of Act One, Maureen Lipman has a very strong scene in Act Two, which she plays beautifully. Harry Shearer is given very little to do as the third point in the triangle and, at least on Press Night, looked very uncomfortable doing it.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review -   Daytona - Park Theatre 2013

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