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Review Round-Ups

Oliver Cotton's Daytona splits the critics

Maureen Lipman, Oliver Cotton and Harry Shearer star in the transfer from the Park Theatre at the Theatre Royal Haymarket

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Harry Shearer, Oliver Cotton and Maureen Lipman in Daytona
© Johan Persson

Michael Coveney


...it's a marvellous, moving play not a whit dwarfed by its grandiose new surroundings. In fact, the edges and currents are sharpened and deepened on a raked stage with functional design by Ben Stones... Maureen Lipman and Harry Shearer... renew their Park performances with interest... lost love in a Sliding Doors scenario, poignantly encapsulated in one of several vivid long speeches... beautifully articulated by Lipman, quivering on the brink of split love-loyalty... At the Park, Shearer's Joe was hung out to dry on the sidelines. The Haymarket re-focus suggests something altogether different: a life of real heroism, romantic and practical, that trumps the other two... Cotton has written himself a two-reel role that could only be bettered in performance by Jeff Goldblum...

Lyn Gardner


... In the vast Haymarket, this intimate three-hander flaps around like a minnow stranded in the glare of the hot sun on Daytona Beach... It's a potentially interesting dramatic premise full of moral conundrums, but Cotton makes very little of it, aside from giving himself the opportunity to make speeches so long that I began to wonder if he was trying to break some kind of record... Now it's Lipman who gets to make the very long, very significant big speech... Lipman gets the opportunity to remind us what a fine and subtle actor she is... she is understated, and all the more moving for it. It is a performance that balances intelligence and feeling in a way that the play singularly fails to achieve.

Henry Hitchings
Evening Standard


... While Oliver Cotton's play provides a substantial role for the perennially popular Maureen Lipman, it's a contrived and rather bland take on some hefty themes... although Lipman relishes the wittier lines, her nicely restrained performance ensures that Elli appears stubborn, pragmatic and rueful... Shearer's Joe is neat and pensive, but a little too understated, while Cotton plays the shambling, bear-like Billy with livid energy... David Grindley's careful production can't obscure the play's weaknesses. It's a clunky mixture of love story, historically charged Arthur Miller homage and winsome picture of seniors savouring their dance steps.Its lengthy monologues meander, exposition takes too long and the big revelations are predictable. Daytona is overstuffed, and a lack of focus means it never drives home any of the points it seems interested in making.

Charles Spencer
Daily Telegraph


... Its sturdy, well-made strength and manifest humanity ensure that it works just as powerfully at its new address... It's a gripping story, powerfully told... the play also explores the relationship between the three characters, which proves more complex than it initially seems... David Grindley's production grips throughout... There is a palpable humanity in Cotton's writing and a surprising amount of humour, too. Cotton... brings a compellingly wired quality to Billy. He is entirely unrepentant about his action, which he describes in mesmerising detail... Harry Shearer has the angsty quality of Woody Allen... Maureen Lipman is both witty and deeply moving... a deeply moving love story.

Paul Taylor

There's an Arthur Miller-like feel to the set-up in Oliver Cotton's play... There's real potential in the premise; it's because of authorial clumsiness in the way the idea is handled that the play comes over as hollow and unearned... Harry Shearer and Maureen Lipman who capture their niggling but contented-through-habit relationship well... Cotton's performance registers vividly the weird mix of euphoria and perplexity... far too much is schematically signalled and fails to ring true... The best parts are the long set-pieces which almost made me feel that, given Cotton's gift for these, the story would have been better told as interwoven monologues... Lipman's excellent performance... she is gently devastating as the sad drily witty wife who has had to learn make the most of the second best.