Following a successful run at Theatre N16 last year, John Patrick Shanley’s, Danny and The Deep Blue Sea, directed by Courtney Larkin, returns for a London run at The Old Red Lion Theatre. As the audience enters, classic 80’s music plays, a nod to the era in which the play was originally written. While the text has aged a little, it’s the production values here which pick up the slack.
Danny and Roberta find themselves in another-wise empty Bronx bar, both characters have issues. Danny has a hair-trigger temper that results in work mates calling him ‘the beast’. He may have killed a man, but isn’t sure, and his brooding manner does nothing to indicate whether he cares or not. Roberta is divorced with a teenage son who is being brought up by her parents. She has a dark secret that she’s revealed to no-one, but tells all to Danny within a few minutes, as a Catholic she seeks absolution.
The pair wallow in self-pity, go back to Roberta’s room to make love, then lie in bed wallowing some more. There’s a glimmer of hope, for both of them, that they have found what they are looking for, but we never get to find out for sure.
It’s true that not much happens, but the performances are certainly compelling. Gareth O’Connor, as Danny, burns with rage, when his temper explodes it’s genuinely terrifying and, at times, quite shocking. It’s a testament to his craft that he can build himself up to this level of fury and not lose control completely.
Megan Lloyd-Jones, as Roberta, also gives a powerful performance. Her desperation for some kind of forgiveness, indeed punishment, just comes pouring out in a wave of emotion.
The dialogue is briefly broken with a choreographed routine, by Katie Lines, which represents the violent love making. It works particularly well, not only in taking a break from all the self-pity, but to establish the couples blossoming relationship and the dynamic that any future they have, may hold.
Danny and the Deep Blue Sea is written to put more emphasis on the character exploration than the storyline, and therefore runs the danger of becoming dull. Yet, this production is in capable hands, strong direction and arresting performances make the words leap from the page and take on life in all it’s shocking ugliness.