Driving Miss Daisy is best known as the Academy award winning movie starring Jessica Tandy and Morgan Freeman, however, it was a Pulitzer Prize winning play before it was adapted for film. Written by Alfred Uhry, it tells the story of an unlikely friendship between a feisty widow and her black chauffeur in Alabama, America.
Genevieve Ryan is delightful as widow Daisy Werthan. She is convincingly stubborn and determined to remain independent, yet still endearing herself to the audience, making her blossoming friendship with her chauffeur all the more believable.
Eyawn Harry is perfectly cast as Hoke Coleburn. He looks the part and sounds the part. His southern American accent sounds so authentic at times, there were a few lines difficult to understand due to the thickness of the accent. You’d believe he was brought in directly from the US if it wasn’t for the programme informing patrons he was originally from London and now resides in Melbourne.
Both actors managed to beautifully portray the aging of their characters through several decades, to the point it was difficult to really identify just how old these actors are in real life.
Rounding out the cast is Andrew Ferguson in the role of Daisy’s son, Boolie Werthan who brings a convincing performance.
Director Horrie Leek has delivered a poignant production that brings the heart and warmth of this beautiful story without underplaying the very relevant issues of racial divide and social adversity. The use of narration provided a very suitable way to ensure relevant moments in history were considered. There were a few forgotten lines within the narration, which will either improve with more performances or alternatively could just as easily be read from notes without distracting from the actual performance of the play itself.
The cleverly designed set by Horrie Leek makes the most of the small stage space, with several surprise elements that ensure a smooth and fast transition between scenes. This was further enhanced by a smart lighting design by Robin Le Blond. Some background music at various times made some of the spoken lines difficult to hear and could easily be dropped just a fraction to improve the balance.
Wardrobe by Christine Hibberd was suitable for the period with small additions here and there being used to indicate a passage of time rather than having a full costume change.
Driving Miss Daisy is a heartwarming and endearing story about an unlikely friendship that blossomed against a background of racial discrimination and class divide. There are plenty of lighter moments in the play to provide some laughs and keep the story entertaining, but there is also plenty to consider in our current world for anyone wanting to delve a little further.
Driving Miss Daisy is now playing at The 1812 Theatre