REVIEW: Driving Miss Daisy at Chichester Festival Theatre

Sian Phillips and Derek Griffiths in Driving Miss Daisy. Picture by Nobby Clark
Sian Phillips and Derek Griffiths in Driving Miss Daisy. Picture by Nobby Clark
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Alfred Uhry’s slice of life in the southern states over 20-some years takes brief root at the Festival Theatre this week.

Staged against an open white set that successfully conveys both the extreme heat of the Georgian summer and the searing cold of the winter it’s a simple study of prejudice, understanding and friendship.

The cast of three is mighty.

Teddy Kempner – a ‘You-Won’t-Know-The-Name-But-You’ll-Know-The-Face’ actor – plays Boolie, son of a difficult Jewish mother who – despite her own views – needs a driver to get her around. Enter Derek Griffiths, the stalwart of my generation’s children’s TV, as Hoke, hired to drive Miss Daisy. And drive her he does, both from place-to-place and round the twist.

Griffiths is astonishingly brilliant. He steers the humour – and the play most certainly is funny – but just when you think you have the measure of the piece, it sticks the emotional knife in.

As Miss Daisy, Siân Phillips (of the gloriously angular face) is a dream. Simultaneously a pillar of self-assured strength and as weak as ice on an August afternoon, her portrayal of Daisy’s descent into the fractured fragility of old-age – the emotional knife I mentioned earlier – is agonisingly difficult to watch – but most definitely deserves to be seen.

Until Saturday.