reviewed at the Cambridge Arts Theatre on 6 November
Where do our prejudices come from? nature or nurture? The question underlies Alfred Uhry’s deceptively straightforward Driving Miss Daisy which the Theatre Royal, Bath is currently touring in a 30th anniversary production.
Director Richard Beecham and designer Simon Kenny keep the three-hander on the move with clever use of a bleached-effect set, suggestive of clapboard and minmal props and furnishings. There i also highly effective music an sound by Jon Nicholls. But for all this, it all boils down in the end to the actors themselves.
Siân Phillips is Miss Daisy, the former teacher who crashes the car her businessman son Boolie (Teddy Kempner) has bought her and is now required to use a Black chauffeur Hoke (Derek Griffiths). her perforamnce is beautifully nuanced as the Jewish momma with her own prejudices begins to trust Hoke and ultimately to depend upon him.
Kempner’s study of a man who is accepted as a quasi-honorary member of WASP society, but who is perhaps too careful not to overstep the mark is also multi-faceted. Hoke has his own shoulder-load of chips and Griffiths entices us with equal skill to join him in the character’s own journey from spikey, well-concealed resentment to a mental and social place of comparative calm.
The waltz rhythm of the old “When the ball is over” ballad permuates the action. It suggests a flavour of Tennessee Williams’ faded Southern belle Amanda, but Phillips’ Daisy learns how to baance a never-to-come-again past with the inevitibility of future’s changes. it makes for a memorable, thought-provoking evening in the theatre.
Four and a half-star rating.
Driving Miss Daisy runs at the Cambridge Arts Theatre until 11 November with matinées on 9 and 11 November.
(reviewed at the Theatre Royal, Norwich on 2 November)
You know what they say – third time lucky! That’s certainly true of the third dance drama starring award-winning and television stars Flavia Cacace and Vincent Simone. The Last Tango has a strong, deceptively simple plot and showcases a range of 1930s dances, not just the tango variations for which Cacace and Simone are renowned.
Into an attic-room crammed with discarded bits of furniture – including a piano much in need of some TLC – as well as boxes and suitcases crammed full of memorabilia crawls old George. His son and daughter call to him from below from time to time, worried for him as each item brings back memories. Teddy Kempner has the audience on his side from the beginning as he unfolds his life for us on the stage below.
We see him first as a young man (Simone) chatting up and then dating a girl he fancies (Cacace). There follows a beach party and a whole range of social encounters offering the other dancers the opportunity to display their considerable dance skills in Karen Bruce’s inventive choreography. The well-designed costumes (Vicky Gill) range from the carefree early 30s to wartime and post-war.
Cacane herself has a razor-bright sharpness to her foot work, a lithe body, gamine hairstyle and a graceful extension. Simone partners her securely and acts the part of the carefree youth changed by combat and later maturing into an acceptance of loss with conviction. Singers Rebecca Lisewski and Matthew Gent underline the passage of time under the musical direction of Steve Geere. The overture, incidentally, sounded over-amplified at the first Norwich performance.
The Last Tango runs at the Theatre Royal, Norwich until 7 November and is also at the Cliffs Pavilion, Southend between 26 and 30 January.