Review: Daytona, Park Theatre, N4

Harry Sherer (Joe) and John Bowe (Billy). Pic by Manuel Harlan

Harry Sherer (Joe) and John Bowe (Billy). Pic by Manuel Harlan - Credit: Archant

Actor-playwright Oliver Cotton’s latest offering begins as a gentle domestic comedy but quickly grabs you by the throat as it confronts a homicide and some epic moral dilemmas.

In Brooklyn in 1986, Elli (a captivating Maureen Lipman) and her husband of many years Joe (the endearing Harry Shearer) have entered a big ballroom dancing competition. Thanks to the brand new Park Theatre’s intimate space and the clever set design, the audience is practically inside the couple’s apartment with them as they bicker light-heartedly about the finer steps of their well-rehearsed dance routine.

Elli pops round her friend Dora’s for the evening. Then Joe’s brother Billy (the spell-binding John Bowe) turns up out of the blue on his doorstep, cold and dishevelled. They haven’t seen each other for over 30 years, since Billy suddenly vanished without trace.

I won’t spoil the surprise by revealing any more. Sufficient to say, Billy has just come from Daytona Beach in Florida, where there’s been a major incident. When Elli eventually returns from her night out, the characters must hammer out the repercussions for themselves. Ballroom dancing will have to have to take a back seat.

This is a gripping play about three individuals caught up in a painful past. Maureen Lipman’s American accent poignantly slips during a crucial phase in the fairly simple plot when she delicately portrays Elli’s mask dropping.

This thankfully air-conditioned theatre only very recently opened its doors; this production confirms it as one of London’s more interesting venues already. I can’t wait to come back here again.

Phil Roe