Thursday, 19 July 2018

Review: A strong take on Holocaust

IF YOU’RE expecting Maureen Lipman to deliver her ditzy funnywoman turn in Daytona at The Oxford Playhouse this week, think

IF YOU’RE expecting Maureen Lipman to deliver her ditzy funnywoman turn in Daytona at The Oxford Playhouse this week, think again! She is on top form together with John Bowe and Spinal Tap’s Harry Shearer but there are few, if any, laughs on offer.

Daytona is set in Brooklyn, New York, and is about the aftermath of the Holocaust. How do you live a life after witnessing the most hideous crime in human history? No matter how militantly normal you try to be you can never erase it, never get back a balance, because the scale skews everything.

We’re spared the full detail of the camps except for one brief sentence. This is about the aftermath as displaced concentration camp-diminished European Jews try to regain life and dignity in the United States. But already this gives away the structure of the plot which is cleverly devised to impose normality and then upend it.

Eli (Lipman) and Joe (Shearer) Zimmerman are in their seventies, 40 years after the end of the war and their liberation from the camps. Their life is in semi-retirement in a Brooklyn apartment with the mundanities and inanities which keep us all going shopping, part time work and in their case ballroom dancing.

Then Joe’s brother Billy shows up having been missing for 30 years. He has a tale about seeing their camp commandant at a hotel in Daytona, Florida. Any more would give far too much of the plot away and it’s so well-constructed that theatregoers would lose out on the twists and turns as it unfolds.

This play is a very strong piece of work from the writer Oliver Cotton. It was first performed this year and continues a tradition of keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive. Not to do so could consign it to history textbooks and minority channel documentaries and that would be a crime in itself.

Continues until Saturday. Box office 01865 305305.

Mike Rowbottom

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