Theatre Review: Driving Miss Daisy – York Theatre Royal

Driving Miss Daisy, York Theatre Royal, until June 29. Tickets available at at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk

This year’s early summer run at the Theatre Royal in York is Driving Miss Daisy, on until Saturday June 29th and I cannot recommend anything more right now, than you go and buy your tickets now!

Immortalised in the 1989 film featuring Morgan Freeman, Jessica Tandy and Dan Aykroyd, Alfred Uhry’s play is a three hander which unlike the movie, brings more focus to the relationships between characters rather than the issues concerned.

Driving Miss Daisy follows the life of Daisy (Paula Wilcox), a 72 year old widowed, retired teacher and her interactions with her son Boolie (Cory English) and driver, Hoke (Maurey Richards) in the backdrop of the southern American state of Georgia. In a time corrupted by racism, and far right rising, Driving Miss Daisy is a play that when you watch it, you realise we’re living in a society that runs risk of following those trends, today – making it even more poignant than ever before.

The stage set-up and design developed by Emma Wee, adds real depth to the show; the open plan house and office space and rotating car dominate but leaves space at the top of the set for newspaper cuttings and headlines from the time period – an innovative and creative way of moving the time on as the story develops. The film footage and the cuttings all make for harrowing but inspirational viewing. Recalling the news of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Junior and how these torrid times weren’t that long in our history set the context impeccably throughout each scene and I was really impressed with the visuals used.

Whilst, as mentioned, the narrative and dialogue between characters focuses less on these issues and the civil rights movement than the movie, it is the relationships between the three characters that bring the show to life. A slow start builds, as the relationships do and the three actors make the three individuals their own, adding their own touch of Daisy, Hoke and Boolie to the act. Paula Wilcox is outstanding, and being 72 herself, shows herself in a really personal light that makes the viewing unmissable; the Georgia accent showcases her diversity on stage, and as she ages throughout the play, she takes on a new defined role almost every 20 minutes.

English and Richards, two Americans, also have some real standout moments – English in the scene discussing his reluctance to support MLK and Richards in the end when he has lost his best friend. What I personally love about all three performances is that whilst the play has been given a modern twist with the use of creative technology, they all have the charm and humour originally intended within the narrative. Driving Miss Daisy, a wonderful heart-warming, version of this amazing story – well done York Theatre Royal!

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