Freelance journalist with a passion for theatre, the arts, food and books.
Stunning play touring Malvern, Birmingham and Bath
It was during a Eureka moment at a poolside in Daytona, Florida, that writer Oliver Cotton envisaged a pivotal moment in his new play.
And the fruits of those labours - Daytona - is now being premiered in a UK tour encompassing Malvern Theatres, Birmingham Repertory Theatre and Bath Theatre Royal.
Maureen Lipman commands the stage in Daytona
The white flat sands and bright blue swimming pool that provided Cotton such inspiration in Florida are acutely described in great detail and have a menacing presence in the production despite the story being set in a Brooklyn apartment in 1986.
It's actually a wonderfully complex soulful drama that examines the relationships between the three Jewish main characters - Elli (Maureen Lipman), her husband Joe (Harry Shearer) and his brother Billy (John Bowe).
Now all well in their retirement, the story unfolds with a contented Joe and Elli interrupted by the sudden arrival of Joe's estranged and vivacious brother Billy, who disappeared from their lives 30 years ago. It emerges that they had all grown up together and survived a Nazi concentration camp before making it to America for a new life in New York before Billy suddenly vanished.
Long-lost brother Billy (John Lowe) makes a sudden return in Daytona.
But dishevelled and in a Hawaiian shirt, likeable Billy has a series of revelations from the past and present that gradually unfold and leave the audience anxious for hope of a positive outcome to the mess that Billy has come to be in.
What makes this production so good is that it has such a strong team behind it.
Writer Oliver Cotton has penned episodes of A Touch of Frost, while his stage work includes Man Falling Down for Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. Then there is the exceptional cast of Maureen Lipman, Harry Shearer and John Bowe.
Lipman, one of the finest British stage actresses, is reliably good and believable as a woman haunted by her own secrets. Meanwhile, Shearer, who despite being better known as the voice behind Smithers, Monty Burns and Ned Flanders in The Simpsons has shades of Woody Allen about him on stage. He is calmly bitter with simmering resentment at the brother he feels not only betrayed him but their Jewish heritage.
While Bowe, recently seen in BBC's The Hour, is a powerhouse of emotion as the sibling who reacts unashamedly to his heart rather than his head.
I don't want to give anything away as the mystery and constant uncoiling of secrets is part of the beauty of this work.
However, be assured, Daytona is an emotional heart-wrenching journey, but it's a trip that really should be taken.
Malvern Theatres, October 7-12
Bath Theatre Royal - October 14-19
Birmingham Repertory Theatre, October 21-26.