Review: Driving Miss Daisy

By John Nathan, October 11, 2011

Wyndham's Theatre, London WC2

Written in 1987, this is the work that earned writer Alfred Uhry a Pulitzer, and, for the film version, an Oscar too. It was memories of his grandmother that inspired the story about an independent, elderly Jewish woman and Hoke, the black man hired as her driver.

David Esbjornson's production, which arrives from Broadway, boasts Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones as the two oldies who have nothing in common but age.

It all takes place in Georgia during the 1950s and '60s against the backdrop of the gathering civil-rights movement. Yet, for much of the uninterrupted 90 minutes, Daisy's and Hoke's relationship exists largely detached from the surrounding anti-black and antisemitic prejudice.

Redgrave, all southern (bad) manners and pride is terrific. Jones, who stoops with the weight of America's slave-owning past on his shoulders, bears the burden with a stoic dignity. He is brilliant. But it is so obvious from the start that the mutually suspicious pair will end up the best of friends that the evening is almost entirely devoid of tension. Naturally, at the moment the friendship was declared, I cried a like a baby. Shmaltz junkies will enjoy.

Last updated: 6:47pm, October 11 2011