Tag Archives: Geoff Aymer

Driving Miss Daisy

reviewed at the McGrigor Hall, Frinton on 10 July

We all confront prejudice sooner or later, in one form or another. How we deal with it is an individual matter. Take for example Alfred Uhry’s 1987 play Driving Miss Daisy. There are three characters with very different responses in the 25 years of the action which takes place in southern USA.

Daisy Werthan is a Jewish widow, formerly a school headmistress, set in her ways of doing things. Her son Boolie is a successful businessman, well-liked – even admired – by his associates but always conscious that he can maintain this only by appearing 100 percent true American.

Hoke Colburn, the chauffeur he hires after Daisy has crashed one car too many, has always known prejudice; after all, he’s Black. His method of dealing with it is to play the part demanded of him while balancing an inner integrity with maximising on other people’s expectations. Or lack of them.

How we react really depends on the cast. Vivienne Garnett’s production has a minimalist setting (though including a rather marvellous automobile) by Sorcha Corcoran against which the drama plays out.

Geoff Aymer’s Hoke, playing the part for the second time in Frinton, has the audience in the palms of his hands using especially his articulate eyes while gradually revealing how he deals with first Daisy’s disdain and downright mistrust and then – as age reverses their rôles – with genuine sympathetic understanding.

Age is something which most of us confronting its onslaughts try to fight off as long as possible. Anah Ruddin has the measure of Daisy as events conspire to confront her with whole swathes of inevitability; it’s a precisely nuanced performance.

Boolie is a likeable man, trying to juggle family responsibilities with professional and social ones and knowing that what he is driven to do is not necessarily the right option. Stacy Shane makes all this credible from his first lines.

This production sets a standard for the 2018 Frinton Summer Theatre season, overcoming the difficulties of a small stage and non-raked auditorium. Driving Miss Daisy is perhaps a bold choice for an opening night on the Essex coast, but theatre has always been about taking risks.

Four star rating

Driving Miss Daisy continues at the Frinton Summer Theatre until 14 July. with a matinée on 14 July. The season continues until 25 August.

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The Importance of Being Earnest

reviewed at the Cambridge Arts Theatre on 9 April

Wilde’s most popular comedy went through several changes before its 1895 première. The principal one was compressing four into three acts, though two characters seem also to have been eliminated – a gardener called Moulton and another person called Grimsby.

Moulton has re-emerged in Alastair Whatley’s production for the Original Theatre Company, but here as a parlour-maid, a non-speaking rôle for Judith Rae, who seems to be employed both by Thomas Howe’s Algernon Moncrieff and Peter Sandys-Clarke’s Jack Worthing.

Designer Gabrielle Slade has conjured a fretwork set of art nouveau curves against which the costume palette uses mainly browns and an eye-catching turquoise. Howes sports two outfits, which I’m afraid put me in mind of Mr Toad, in green. Neither man seems to possess formal town clothes for the Act One tea-party.

Comedy, even farce – which this is not for all its cascades of wisecracks and ludicrous situations – needs a featherweight touch if we are really to feel inside the joke and not just experiencing it at a remove. Everyone on stage comes over as trying just a bit too hard.

Hannah Louise Howell’s Gwendolyn is the most sophisticated of débutantes; her expressions as she follows her mother’s exchanges with Algy and Jack are an object lesson in reaction. Louise Coulthard’s Cecily suggests just the right amount of steel to dilute her apparent wholesome winsomeness.

Playing Miss Prism as a flask-swigging gorgon does Susan Penhaligon no favours while Simon Shackleton’s doubling of Lane and Merriman fails to differentiate between the two trusted retainers. Geoff Aymer’s Canon Chasuble doesn’t really fit comfortably into the second and third acts.

It’s only fair that most of the audience seemed to love it, laughing heartily at Algy’s insatiable appetite and Jack’s increasingly frantic to keep control of his rickety raft of contradictory situations. Gwen Taylor’s swoops to the forefront as Lady Bracknell, one with rather more of a sense of humour than is sometimes allowed, and the ability not to stumble over the “handbag” tripwire.

Three and a half-star rating.

The Importance of Being Earnest continues at the Cambridge Arts Theatre until 14 April with matinées on  12 and 14 April.

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