Daisy and hoke

Driving Miss Daisy

Malvern Theatres 


Apart from this being a charming story, the chance of seeing award-winning Dame Siân Phillips on stage seemed an opportunity too good to miss.

Phillips is at the centre of this sentimental tale set in Atlanta in 1948. She is the elderly and independent, Jewish widow Daisy Werthan, whose son hires her an African American chauffeur Hoke Colburn.

The play follows the pair’s gentle relationship over 25 years with an emphasis on the comedy as much as the subtle drama.

Phillips has spent more than seven decades in the acting business across tv, film and stage and it shows. She’s so natural on stage that you forget she’s acting. 

In fact, it feels a surprise when the actress jumps out of her chair, as sprightly as a hare, at the close of the play after you’ve see her playing Daisy as a vulnerable shuffling woman in her 90s.

Opposite her is another distinguished actor - Derek Griffiths. He may be well known for children’s TV show Play School and Coronation Street of late, but he’s also gained acclaim at the Royal Shakespeare Company and won a Best Actor Award for his performance in Nude With Violin at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre.

He is charismatic on stage as quick-witted, likeable chauffeur Hoke and is a great pairing for Phillips. They have a delightful chemistry that brings alive this genteel mature friendship. 

The only other character is Daisy’s son Boolie, who is played by an excellent Teddy Kempner. He holds his own in the small but strong cast of three.

The slick production is from Theatre Royal Bath and has created the atmosphere of the Deep South with the white clapperboard set that cleverly opens out in various places to add scenery. 

It’s a gradual journey through the pair’s friendship told through a series of encounters. It may take its time but over two hours, tough issues are thrown into the mix like racial prejudice, antisemitism and civil unrest, which all make this show so much more than just a friendship drama.

Often, it’s what’s left unsaid that is just as poignant and director Richard Beecham gives plenty of space and time for these moments.

The play started life in the Theatres - as an off-Broadway production in 1987, part of Alfred Uhry's Atlanta Trilogy -  which led to the Oscar winning film version in 1989 that clinched four Academy Awards.

It’s good to see it back on stage and this well-acted, carefully directed, fine production does the story proud.

It has a particularly touching close to the play that fits beautifully. Catch it while you can. To 25-11-17.

Alison Brinkworth


Index page Malvern Reviews A-Z Reviews by Theatre