This stage version of classic Oscar road movie left me unmoved
Theatre Royal, Plymouth, until tomorrow
Strangely enough, Driving Miss Daisy was mentioned on the news this week. Coverage of the Oscars noted the success of Argo as Best Picture, despite the fact that director Ben Affleck wasn't nominated.
The last time that happened was with the 1989 film Driving Miss Daisy. It was a wonderful story which spanned more than 20 years, centred on the relationship between Miss Daisy, an elderly Southern belle of Jewish stock, and her black chauffeur, Hoke. They encountered all sorts of prejudices but, against the background of the Civil Rights Movement of the 50s and 60s, forged a friendship. It won an Oscar for Jessica Tandy, then 81, and a nomination for Morgan Freeman.
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So expectations are high, particularly with Gwen Taylor and Don Warrington taking on the roles of stubborn, proud Miss Daisy and Hoke, her clever and loyal driver.
The play, written by Alfred Uhry and based on his own family's experiences, and directed by David Esbjornson, creates a lot of thought-provoking moments – the reality of racial prejudice, the ways in which Jewish people are also treated, family, the enduring nature of friendship and the ageing process are all part and parcel of the rich text. Staging is simple – a couple of chairs, a desk and a table – with the passage of time and some of the locations conveyed with projected images.
There was some comedy in this three-hander – Ian Porter plays Miss Daisy's son Boolie – but I didn't feel moved by any of the performances, as I'd expected to be. The constraints of performing for 90 minutes without interval (no costume changes, no make-up) hampered the narrative. Some fine moments, which were appreciated more by the rest of the audience than me.