Driving Miss Daisy Kings Theatre

History is a funny thing. Over time, it seems to me that those of us who are not students of the subject are left with only the ‘bullet points’. For example, I had long believed that the French Revolution put paid to their monarchy. The reality is that after it they still had spells under two emperors and a king before the founding of the Third Republic. Likewise, I was under the impression that the Civil Rights movement in America was a product solely of the Sixties and that ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ was originally a blockbuster film. I was put right on these two points when I attended the opening night of the stage version of the latter at The Kings Theatre in Edinburgh. The reality is that Alfred Uhry’s play was first performed ‘off Broadway’ in 1987 with the film, starring Jessica Tandy and Morgan Freeman, coming along in 1989; and the civil rights struggle really started in 1875.

The brilliantly written dialogue takes us through a 25 year period, starting in 1948, in the life of Miss Daisy, an already elderly, widowed, Jewish, white Atlanta lady, desperately trying to be independent. Her concerned son, Boolie Werthan, employs a coloured driver to chauffeur her after she accidentally ‘trashes’ her new car. We are then taken through the gradual development of their relationship over the years, set against the backdrop of the changes taking place in America’s attitude to minorities, the coloured population in particular.

There are only three members of the cast. Miss Daisy is played superbly by Gwen Taylor, who has a list of acting credits which seems to go on for ever, but is best known to me for her appearances in the TV sitcom ‘Duty Free’ and various parts in Monty Python related films. Her driver, Hoke Coleburn, is portrayed by Don Warrington, again probably best known for being in a classic sitcom, ‘Rising Damp’, and currently on our screens in ‘Death in Paradise’. Ian Porter, who plays Daisy’s son Boolie has fewer high profile TV appearances to his name but can cite parts in ‘Saving Private Ryan’ and Mr Bean’s Holiday’ on his CV. If I were to have any criticism of the acting – and it is a very minor one – it would be that to my ears, English actors putting on southern US accents just did not sound right.

The play shows us a different, almost personal, perspective on a very serious historical subject, but at the same time manages to be extremely entertaining. In fact there are laughs in abundance, some even causing the audience to make so much noise they were at risk of drowning out the dialogue!

The production, directed by David Esbjornson, is on at the King Theatre in Edinburgh until the 9th of March.

Charlie Cavaye