Theatre Review - 'Driving Miss Daisy

Posted on: 31 October 2011 by Alexander Hay

It is a pleasure to go to the theatre and find two great veteran actors at the peak of their powers. But this is indeed the case with Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones who work their magic in the superlative production of Driving Miss Daisy (Wyndhams Theatre)

Service with a smile (and a no-claims bonus) in Driving Miss DaisyMost people will remember the Oscar-winning film starring Jessica Tandy and Morgan Freeman, but the piece originally began life in 1987 as a play by Alfred Uhry and it is revived here by David Esbjornson.

The story is simple. Daisy Werthan is a steely Jewish widow and retired schoolteacher in her seventies. After she has a traffic accident her son feels she can no longer be trusted with a car and hires kind-hearted black chauffeur Hoke to drive her around.

Although Miss Daisy is at first resistant and resentful, over time she mellows and a long-lasting friendship develops between them. As the wheels turn and the decades roll by the play covers a period from 1948 to 1973 – against a backdrop of prejudice, inequality and civil unrest, the pair slowly transcend their differences and ultimately grow to rely on each other far more than wither of them ever expected.

This is a charming, poignant and utterly compelling play, full of wit and humanity, whose characters are richly drawn and whose depiction of both the consolations of friendship and the ravages of time and old age are moving and true, without any trace of sentimentality.

Vanessa Redgrave certainly deserves a Best Actress of the Year award for her mesmeric performance here as the prickly, elderly Southern matriarch of the title investing her role with an enduringly firm manner but also moments of deep feeling, while James Earl Jones is every bit as good as her patient, dignified, long-suffering chauffeur. Equally commendable is Boyd Gaines as Miss Daisy’s concerned son.

Playwright Alfred Uhry has said that the character of Miss Daisy was inspired by his own grandmother and this is well in evidence here by the insight and engagement he brings to his work to make this such a heart-warming experience.In short a truly rewarding evening in the theatre!

Plays until December 17

Box office: 0844 482 5125

Press: Emma Holland PR  emma@emmahollandpr.com

By Laurence Green

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Alexander Hay

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