Review: Danny and the Deep Blue Sea
Image: Old Red Lion Theatre
Two castaways, Danny and Roberta, fight their way to each other in a sea of hardship and cling violently for a chance at the happiness afforded to most but denied to them.
Against the backdrop of a rundown bar in the Bronx, John Patrick Shanley's classic play is an explosive and deeply affecting study of alienation and the redemptive power of love.
Here lie the ingredients that make us human: the need to be heard, understood, loved and accepted, and the fear of not being any of them.
New York is many things, but forgiving is not one of them.
Hate soppy love stories?
Well, here's one that avoids the overly saccharine to provide a romantically-inclined and gritty drama of striking difference.
In fact, it might be more apt to describe this two-hander not so much as a story of love, but about an 'accommodation' or even a coalition (to use an obviously topical term) where two people, existing on the margins of society and struggling to find anything approaching happy normality, manage to elicit some comfort and the possibility of a viable future with each other, against the odds.
Photo by Ben Bardsley-Ball
John Patrick Shanley's intriguing and novel story begins with Megan Lloyd-Jones's Roberta repetitively tossing broken pretzel's into a tin in a grim bar in New York's Bronx.
She's joined in the gloomy watering hole by Danny (played by Gareth O'Connor) a raging, bruiser of a man who spends almost all his spare time fighting anyone who happens to come within reaching distance and known to his workmates as 'the beast'.
His justifiably fearless reputation as a pugilist seems to have been forged in high school and, since then, he's maintained his dubious fame with his fists which still bear the scars of his latest battle, and leaving him wondering if he has actually killed someone.
Though there's some initial friction between the two, Roberta gradually warms to a man she recognises as someone who may be as 'crazy' as she is.
Roberta, though, is not crazy in the same way as Danny - she harbours a secret about a 'crazy' event in her life for which she cannot forgive herself.
However, the two do have some similar qualities.
In particular, they are both argumentative and abrasive and neither seem to understand how to be 'romantic' towards another person.
Courtney Larkin assumes the directorial reigns here, keeping tight control of proceedings to craft a totally absorbing production, augmented by a subtle soundscape by Janet A. Cantrill which unobtrusively completes the atmosphere.
Ms Larkin also finds space to inject some fine movement - choreographed by Kate Lines - which allows for changes in pace and forms inventive transitions between scenes.
For some, there may seem a touch of sentimentality in Danny's desire for a traditional white wedding with all the usual trimmings, but his motivation is concerned with the search for 'normality'.
In fact, John Patrick Shanley's captivating and insightful play is not even remotely sentimental, and there are many poignantly moving moments.
It's also not actually about romantic love, but rather the redemptive power of forgiveness, emanating here from an unexpected quarter.
Though there are plenty of caustic exchanges between the characters, there's a surprising amount of humour too, which arises naturally through both the characterisations and the excellent dialogue.
Perfectly cast with both actors turning-in exceptionally convincing and emotional performances, this is a powerful and compelling piece, and highly recommended.
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