Thursday, 19 July 2018

Review

THIS is a gentle, warming play with a message that friendship overlooks differences in culture, fortune and background.

THIS is a gentle, warming play with a message that friendship overlooks differences in culture, fortune and background.

The two main characters couldn’t be more different: one is a white, ageing, proudly independent and wealthy Jewish woman, Daisy Werthan and the other is her impoverished black chauffeur, Hoke Coleburn. Daisy’s son Boolie hires the chauffeur against his mother’s wishes. Daisy (Gwen Taylor) and Hoke (Neil Patterson) each need to assert their worth whilst first accepting then embracing their mutual dependency.

Written and performed first in 1987 this play earned its writer Alfred Uhry the Pulitzer prize for drama. The story draws its tension and interest from the characters’ different social positions yet in my view takes too light a look at the history of prejudice in Atlanta, Georgia, during the years spanned by the play —1948 to 1973.

The social historical context is not as strongly implied in today’s telling of the story as it may have been in its earlier performances and thus I recommend reading the programme before viewing the play to help you make contact with the tensions.

This production at the Swan had billed veteran actor Don Warrington as Hoke — those of my generation will remember him as the African tenant in TV sitcom Rising Damp. I was a little disappointed that his role was covered by a stand-in on Tuesday night, and that may have explained the lack of chemistry between Daisy and Hoke, making the play a little bland in tone. Also, the production uses minimal props and the play lacked the visual variety needed to bring off a simple three-hander. Having said that, there were some tender moments between the assertive Daisy and her gentle chauffeur.

In all, there is a warming message — genuine mutual respect produces fine rewards. I hope you manage to see Don Warrington to compare with my experience.

lDriving Miss Daisy continues at the Wycombe Swan until tomorrow (Saturday). Box office 01494 512000 or www.wycombeswan.co.uk

Driving Miss Daisy

Wycombe Swan

Tuesday, April 2

Elizabeth Rooke

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