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Danny & the Deep Blue Sea

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
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Danny and the Deep Blue Sea is a brief, brusque, self-indulgent two-hander in which secretly wounded New Yorkers Danny and Roberta meet, posture and finally share their secrets one night in a bar before tumbling home to tear their pleasures with rough strife at her place.

Graffiti Production's take on John Patrick Stanley's mid-80s play is styled as "an Apache Dance", (pronounced ah-pahsh, not like the native American tribe of the same spelling, as the programme helpfully points out) a rough, sexualised early 20th century Parisian street dance. There are nods to this, but occasional half hearted slaps are barely worth this sub-heading.

Certainly nothing on display here draws on the animalistic fierceness that The New York Times noted at Danny's 1984 outing, where “the play is the equivalent of sitting at ringside watching a prize fight that concludes in a loving embrace.”

Clare Latham unfurls a promising performance as Roberta, with hints of insecurity crossed with self-hate and fury, but doesn't look careworn enough to play the mother of a 13-year-old, while Jonathan Chambers' Danny glowers but never quite convinces as the bruised hard man - who thinks he might have killed someone last night - with dreams of marriage.

Awkward stances abound in the show, with little feline sprawling to suggest the couple's sweaty clinch a few hours earlier. But then, director Che Walker leaving the cast scantily clad for at least 20 minutes in a chilly place like the Southwark Playhouse's Vault doesn't help either. A bland lighting palette from Arnim Friess certainly doesn't warm the echoing square into a hot, squeezed bedroom space.

Sadly, pacing is flat and the drama can't even be dubbed monochrome as there are no real extremes on display, neither the euphoric heights of shared late night fantasy or the threatening, dark Deep Blue Sea depths you'd expect to plumb.

- Vicky Ellis


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