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This heartwarming (often a cliche, but very true here) story, written by Alfred Uhry, about a cantankerous old Jewish lady and her black chauffeur, was made famous by the film starring Jessica Tandy (who won an Oscar for her part) Morgan Freeman and Dan Aykroyd (both men also received Oscar nominations).  Here, it is brought to the stage, starring Gwen Taylor as Daisy, Don Warrington as Hoke, and Ian Porter as Daisy’s son Boolie.

The story starts in 1948, in Georgia, USA, when elderly Daisy Werthan has yet another accident while driving, and her son insists that he will hire a chauffeur for her, and Hoke is the driver who he chooses.  Initially Daisy is reluctant, as she resents her loss of independence, but over the years, she and Hoke grow close and become good friends, who genuinely care for one another.  The story finishes in the 1970s, and as the times progress, the current affairs of the day are referred to, particularly Martin Luther King’s work to eradicate racism and inequality.

The cast of three were all stunning, and it’s incredibly hard to pick any as being better than the others, but I was totally bowled over by Don Warrington.  He played Hoke with charm, humour and tenderness.  Gwen Taylor was wonderful as the acerbic Daisy, who despite maintaining that she is not prejudiced against black people, makes a few remarks early on that suggest that she is, even if she doesn’t believe it herself.  So to see her become so enamoured of Martin Luther King, and be excited about the changes that are taking place (equality laws) is rather lovely.  Despite her initial hostility towards Hoke (which is not personal so much as what his presence represents, i.e., the fact that she is ageing and not as capable as she was), she still has a warmth about her.  Ian Porter was wonderful as the son caught between the old world which Hoke and his mother are familiar with, and the new world, with all the changes that it brings.  And yet, while he is not prejudiced, he still expresses fear about going to a banquet to celebrate Martin Luther King, because he fears that his business will suffer if he does.  However, it’s clear that he genuinely does like Hoke and grows to respect him.

The staging was also very clever – a simplistic set, but very effective, especially the driving scenes, with a backdrop of the places they visited being projected onto the back wall.  This worked extremely well.

The play was just about an hour and a half long, and there was no interval.  This worked to its advantage, as the play was probably not lengthy enough to warrant and break, and I think the flow of the story would have been broken if there had been an interval.

Driving Miss Daisy is at the end of it’s tour, which is a real shame, because I really want to recommend it to everyone I know!  It was a moving, thought-provoking, and often amusing story, and I had a tear in my eye at the end.  Just wonderful.

(For more information about this production, please click here.)

 

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