Alfred Uhry’s Driving Miss Daisy is a heart-warming tale of friendship.
This production has transferred to Wyndham’s Theatre from New York where Vanessa Redgrave was nominated for a Tony Award for the role of Daisy Werthan.
Daisy Werthan is horrified when her son Boolie informs her that at the age of 72 she is a danger on the roads and that he has organized a chauffeur for her. She is terrified of losing her independence and that people will think she is showing off.
She may not have been so against it if she were to know that Hoke Coleburn was eventually to become her most treasured friend.
This play was originally written and performed in1987 where it was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. It was then made into a film that was to receive an Academy Award.
Set in post Second World War from 1948 to 1973, this friendship blossoms set against the American civil rights movement. The hired chauffeur is Hoke Coleburn. He is black, proud and humorous, and devoted to Miss Daisy.
Miss Daisy is a widowed southern Jew who used to be a school teacher. We get to know these characters as they get to know each other.
Hoke may be an employee of Miss Daisy and her son Boolie but his fierce sense of pride reminds Miss Daisy to always treat him as an equal. Hoke proves to be indispensable to Miss Daisy as he shows her true loyalty, including, showing up for work even in treacherous icy conditions, to make sure Miss Daisy has her morning coffee and that she is not alone.
Miss Daisy becomes equally fond of and attached to Hoke and teaches him to read and write. A defining moment in their friendship is when Hoke breaks the news to Miss Daisy that her Temple has been bombed. She is devastated by this news. He then confides in her that at the age of 10 he witnessed the murder of his friend’s father. He has never disclosed this to anyone but knows she will understand now only too well about the horrors of a racist attack.
There is no interval to this production which moves the action along seamlessly, as we see the years go by with a helpful projection informing us of what year we are in. The projection is also used cleverly to create the illusion of Hoke and Miss Daisy travelling as she is driven in her car. A staircase and kitchen serve to indicate Daisy’s home.
Boolie Werthan too feels affection for Hoke and when Daisy is no longer well enough to be driven in her car, he informs Hoke that he will have his pay cheque for the rest of his life.
Vansessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones give us the excellence you would expect from such talented and accomplished actors. Their performances effortlessly hold your attention, entirely believable and incredibly impressive. Boyd Gaines as Boolie Werthan may be performing alongside two giants of the theatre but Gaines with a collection of 4 Tony Awards to his name, also gave a commendable performance.
Directed by David Esbjornson, this is a magically touching production.
Charing Cross Rd
Content updated 18th October 2014