Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Daytona @ Birmingham REP, Monday 21st October 2013

Another week and another great cast and production at The REP, this time courtesy of a three header starring Maureen Lipman, Harry Shearer (perhaps best known as the voice behind The Simpsons’ Mr Burns and Ned Flanders) and John Bowe. Lipman and Shearer play Elli and Joe, amateur ballroom dancers preparing for their next big competition. All’s going well until someone from their dim and distant past, Billy (played by Bowe), suddenly cha cha chas back into their lives. Pretty much any mention of the plot would spoil things somewhat (much of the power of the piece lie in its revelations) but suffice to say there are quite a few surprises as the well worn threads of the trio’s lives are picked apart.

Perhaps it’s no great stretch for Lipman and Shearer to portray a bickering but generally content Jewish couple, a set up that writer Oliver Cotton artfully exploits for its comic potential. If you’re a Simpsons aficionado you’ll keep catching hints of Principal Skinner in Shearer’s voice, not entirely unsurprising given that his character in this play is also a little hen pecked. Lipman, absent for most of the first half, really comes into her own in Act II courtesy of a powerful and revealing monologue and a sweet dance routine with Shearer (if the producers of Strictly are looking for someone for the next series I reckon she’d be up for it). 

The undoubted star of the show though is Bowe. Everything revolves around his character and he makes the most of this with a performance that wouldn’t be out of place in something more Shakespearian (it comes as no surprise to learn that he’s been in more than his fair share of Shakespeare’s works over the years). 

In fact there’s something of King Lear in his portrayal of Billy (not in terms of the plot I hasten to add), from the righteous rage of his confession in Act I through to the odd moment of madness and the gradual acceptance of his fate in Act II. Completing this link he really does leave you feeling that he’s, in the words of the bard, “more sinned against than sinning” which, when you learn what he’s done, is quite some feat.

Overall it’s a thought provoking piece with some well placed humour and enough plot tension to keep you gripped to the very end, itself a particularly poignant moment...again we’ll leave it there, wouldn’t want to give the game away. What I can say with confidence is that it’s certainly well worth making a date for Daytona.

Daytona is on at The REP until October 26th. 

Photos by Manuel Harlan

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