Driving Miss Daisy – Wolverhampton Grand Theatre

Reviewed by Garry McWilliams

DMD-3

A five star effort from director David Esbjornson who has taken Alfred Uhry’s script and created an enchanting production.

This was our second visit to see the play, my wife (Helen McWilliams) reviewed previously [read here] when ‘Daisy’ arrived in Malvern in November 2012 – however I was interested to watch for a second time and review it from my own perspective. What struck me this time was prior to ‘curtain-up’ (for want of a better phrase as the set was visible and we took our seats) the appearance of the props on stage were not dissimilar to ‘Phantom of the Opera’ (although not on the same scale) and there is no indication of the magic that comes to life when the play commences. Once the production is in full flow the projections at the back of the set provide an atmospheric as well as informative touch and the ‘car’ is a wonder to behold indeed.

Gwen Taylor is outstanding as Daisy Werthan, the 72 year old who refuses to allow her son Boolie to trample all over her fiercely guarded independence. Just because she has crashed her car doesn’t mean that she feels unable to get back behind the wheel again. However, Boolie Werthan (Daisy’s son, played superbly by Ian Porter) has other ideas. Enter Hoke Coleburn (Don Warrington) who is looking for employment and takes the job as Miss Daisy’s Chauffeur. Warrington brings a warmth and vulnerability to Hoke to the point that if one were to take ‘sides’ – his would be the ‘side’ worth championing. Taylor and Warrington are a winning combination and their on-stage partnership is truly seamless. All three of the actors are perfectly cast and it would be difficult to imagine anybody else in the roles.

The story on the surface is that of an unlikely friendship which develops following Daisy’s initial reluctance to rely on anybody but herself and Hoke’s insistence that he should work for the salary that he is receiving from Boolie. However the script delves into class division, illiteracy and also examines some racial issues. There are many highly amusing performances such as Hoke’s delight in telephoning Boolie to advise him that he has finally managed to undertake the duties he is employed to do and driven Daisy to the ‘Piggly Wiggly’ store. Daisy’s distain at her daughter-in-law is hilarious, the line ‘that’s the biggest lie I’ll tell today’ following a telephone conversation with her son where she has sent her ‘love’ to said daughter-in-law met with many chuckles. There are also poignant moments woven in with the light comedy and as Daisy’s health deteriorates some of her bravado goes with it – although not all of it is lost!

The play lasts for 1 ½ hours with no interval and it seemed to hold the attention of everyone in the auditorium. At times one could hear a pin drop, the audience appeared to listen to every single word and their reactions which included applause after various scenes were reflective of the faultless production.

Driving Miss Daisy is making its final stop at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre and finishes on Saturday 13th April. If you want to book tickets for the remaining shows please see http://www.daisyontour.co.uk. Please read the interview with Gwen Taylor for details of her forthcoming projects.

First published 12.04.13

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