Survivor stories at the core of Daytona drama

Maureen Lipman and Harry Shearer in Daytona
Maureen Lipman and Harry Shearer in Daytona

A haunting, funny and poignant play full of mystery, with not one but two love stories at its heart – that’s the pitch for Daytona, which includes a spell at Watford’s Palace Theatre as part of a nationwide tour.

And there are two big names above the title – national treasure Maureen Lipman and Anglophile American Harry Shearer, best known as the voice of ruthless magnate Montgomery Burns in The Simpsons.

The central role is perhaps the most demanding stage challenge yet in a career that spans some five decades for Maureen, now 67.

A dramatic and witty tango à trois, the play is the story of Ellie and Joe, an elderly Jewish couple whose ballroom dance practice is disturbed one evening by the arrival of an unexpected but all-too-familiar face at the door of their Brooklyn apartment.

Each corner of this troubled triangle hides a secret, making the plot hard to write about without betraying the carefully drawn characters.

Over to Maureen: “It’s a play about the validity of revenge and of compromise.

“It’s love, sex, death – always.

“And when you’ve been in close proximity to death, as they have, then love and sex are very very attractive.

“You want to prove you’re alive.”

It’s no plot spoiler to say that the Holocaust looms large.

She says: “All these survivors – and I’ve met many –are made of steel, because they’re the ones who survived. But along with the survival comes guilt.”

As survivor Ellie, Lipman has received rave reviews. She says: “Even before we started rehearsals, I knew her. She’s witty and dry and restrained, very restrained. There’s a lot going on inside but she doesn’t want to look at it.”

This new play by Oliver Cotton, which also features John Bowe, opens at the Palace for a one-week run on Monday, September 9.

There are evening performances at 7.30pm and matinees on Wednesday and Saturday at 2.30pm. Tickets are priced from £11.50, call 01923 225671 or visit www.watfordpalacetheatre.co.uk for details