Daytona at the Theatre Royal Haymarket

20140708-193706-70626310.jpgOliver Cotton, obviously not content having just written the play Daytona, is now starring in it at the Theatre Royal Haymarket where it opened last night after transferring from a successful run at the Park Theatre last year.

Starring in your own show is a noble thing to do and leads to either a case of people thinking you have ‘written a play just so you can be in it’ or brilliance. Luckily Daytona is the latter and you can feel Oliver’s passion for the character he has written in Billy. The other two cast members are equally terrific. Star of stage and screen Maureen Lipman (Eli) has little to do in act one but what she does is done with conviction and her character is really brought to life in act two. Harry Shearer (Joe) makes his West End debut in Daytona but is well known for providing voices for several characters in the TV cartoon The Simpsons as well as co-writing/starring in Spinal Tap.

The show is beautifully set in a mid 1980’s living room. It was obvious from the beginning of the show the era it was set in by the old fashioned telephone, television and general decor. The attention to detail was superb.

What lets Daytona down is it’s story (or lack there of). An elderly couple, living in mid 1980’s New York. Content with their simple lives, they thrive on ballroom dancing in the living room and entering the odd competition. One day, their lives are disrupted when long lost brother Billy arrives at the door, more than 30 years after he disappeared without even leaving a note. When asked why he is there, the play tries to build suspense by taking (what seems a lifetime) for the character to reveal his reason. Sadly the monologue went on for far too long and by the time he confessed he had shot a man, by the pool, whilst on holiday with his family, I found myself past caring why he was there. The play goes on to reveal some slight twists and turns but nothing you wouldn’t expect to see in a play like this. When an argument broke out I though perhaps at least we would see the living room torn apart but sadly there was nothing more than a sandwich thrown against the wall. The play ends just as uneventfully and with no real conclusion.

If it weren’t for the brilliant acting and great set design of this production, I wouldn’t blame people if they asked for their money back, as it was only slightly more entertaining than watching paint dry.

Reviewed by West End Wilma

Daytona is playing at the Theatre Royal Haymarket until 23 August 2014. Click here to book tickets.