Driving Miss Daisy/Malvern Theatres

IT’S the late 1940s in America’s Deep South and the winds of change are starting to ripple through the Georgia pines.

Daisy Werthan is a batty and cantankerous old woman whose latest car crash has driven son Boolie to hire a chauffeur to ferry her about.

The contrast in social status between mistress and servant at first appears clear-cut, but all is not what it seems down in the land of Spanish moss and mint juleps.

And that’s because in so many ways, the Werthans are very much in the same boat as their employee. For they are Jewish. And like the black chauffeur, they too face prejudice and discrimination, although perhaps of a less lethal kind.

The chauffeur has witnessed all the viciousness of white racism, while the worst that the Werthans have faced is the country clubbers’ sniggers and subtle ostracism.

And as Alfred Uhry’s epic essay on the South’s civil rights struggle unfolds, we see a growing bond develop between three people unwittingly united in the face of unreason.

Sian Phillips is magnificent as the not-quite southern belle, her character being perfectly complimented by Derek Griffiths playing long-suffering chauffeur Hoke Colburn.

His take on a man who for all his life has survived in a hostile world by knowing when to speak and when to keep his mouth shut makes for compelling viewing.

And a strong performance too from Teddy Kempner as Daisy’s exasperated son Boolie, a man who has done rather well for himself, yet knows he would never be fully accepted by his business associates.

It is impossible not to be moved by the performances of these three superb actors as they effortlessly capture the essence of a society caught up in the throes of change.

Driving Miss Daisy is an intensely moving piece of theatre and well worth seeing. It runs until Saturday (November 25).

John Phillpott