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Daytona

Published 8 July 2014

What’s it all about?

This, like the final round before a Countdown ad break, is a conundrum. The cast and creative team are staying quieter than an Andy Murray fan during the Wimbledon final about much of the show. I think you can say more without harming the story, but I won’t.

So, it’s about a New York couple of 50 years Joe and Elli who, on the eve of a big dance competition, receive a surprise visit from Joe’s long lost brother.

To throw some themes out there without giving too much away, it deals with truth, betrayal, identity, family and sacrifice.

Who’s in it?

Maureen Lipman and Harry Shearer, who starred in Daytona when it premiered at the Park Theatre last year to wide acclaim, return to the production.

Shearer (This Is Spinal Tap, The Simpsons) spends much time playing second fiddle to Lipman and Oliver Cotton, whose characters dominate his mundane, reserved Joe.

Lipman, by contrast, finds a depth of guilt and regret in the otherwise steely and darkly humorous Elli, giving a performance to set hearts aquiver in the second half.

New boy Cotton, who is also the play’s writer, brings a bustling, nervous energy to his performance as Billy. I’d call him puppyish if that didn’t so badly misrepresent the cause of his fervour.

What should I look out for?

Lipman and Shearer’s dance routine that’s sure to have the Strictly producers lurching for their phones.

Lipman showing her class as she simply and without fuss plumbs the depths of Elli’s bottled up emotions. It’s all in the eyes.

In a nutshell?

Lipman shows her class in a tale of love, vengeance, betrayal and honour.

Who was in the press night crowd?

Hollywood superstar and regular swoon-inducer Hugh Jackman was in and looking a little like Ming The Merciless with a shaved head and an evil villain moustache ripe for twiddling ominously. He bumped into Olivier nominated actress Cush Jumbo, who’ll be starring opposite the X-Men star in the Broadway transfer of The River in October.

What’s being said on Twitter?

@young_geezee Maureen Lipman commanded the stage tonight in #DaytonaWestEnd @TRH_London and powerful performances from the entire cast.

@crickadee A huge story squeezed into two hours & some stunning moments from all the cast. Maureen Lipman shone. #DaytonaWestEnd

Will I like it?

Daytona is a classic familial drama, albeit with rather extreme revelations. Questions of perceived reality, identity and delusion give it depth, while the performances, particularly from Lipman and Cotton, elevate the production. If you like good solid drama, this is a good solid bet.

Daytona is playing at the Theatre Royal Haymarket until 23 August. You can book tickets through us.

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