Volume 93, Issue 78

Thursday, February 17, 2000


Weekend pass

Breakbeat resurrects d 'n' b

Aglukark sings the songs of her people

Kittie's Spit very hard to swallow

Driving Miss Daisy a smooth, theatricle ride


Driving Miss Daisy a smooth, theatricle ride

Gazette file photo
HANK AND EARL GOT SICK OF COMPETING FOR SUE'S LOVE AND DECIDED MAYBE THREE WASN'T A CROWD AFTER ALL. Fountainhead Theatreworks Productions brings the classic story Driving Miss Daisy to the McManus Theatre until Feb. 26.

By Matt Pearson
Gazette Staff

If it is agreed that the goal of theatre is to take one away to another place and another time, then it should also be agreed that the presentation of Driving Miss Daisy, produced by London's recently founded Fountainhead Theatreworks, accomplishes this goal tenfold.

Set in Atlanta, Georgia, Driving Miss Daisy spans about 25 years, in which time a family is confronted with the realities of racism in the Southern United States, after the Second World War.

After Boolie Werthen's (Dave Semple) mother, Daisy (Hazel Desbarats) wrecks her car in her own driveway, he tries to convince her that she's too old to drive. He insists on finding her a driver and subsequently begins interviewing various applicants. Soon enough, Boolie hires an African American man, Hoke Coleburn (Paul Anthony).

Daisy slowly begins to rely on her new driver to take her to the grocery store, the synagogue and even the cemetery where her husband is buried. Hoke and Daisy become friends as they share stories and even a few laughs. Most of the laughs, however, belong to the audience who remain constantly entertained by their back-and-forth banter.

As the years pass, their lives and stories become increasingly intertwined. After Daisy decides she would like to attend a Martin Luther King Jr. speech in Atlanta, Boolie, who initially pushed his mother to overcome her racist leanings, sings a different tune. He expresses concern about what others will think about his mother supporting the civil rights movement. Stubborn as ever, Daisy is determined to hear King speak and affectionately refers to him as "old Martin Luther Werthern."

By the final curtain, Daisy and Hoke develop a strong bond which survives their personal struggles. The play chronicles a period in U.S. history in which the South was a hotbed of racist and anti-Semitic behaviour.

The sparsely set stage is authentic and suits the action nicely, while the quick scenes are guided by musical interludes and lighting changes. For instance, the use of different colour hues symbolizes the changing of seasons and the passing of years.

The costuming also works very well because it does not aspire to take anything away from what is most important – the actors.

In fact, not much could take the audience's attention away from the cast. Although he was strong in his supporting role, Semple spends very little time on stage compared to Desbarats and Anthony.

Anthony's portrayal of an African American man trying to earn a living in a racist world is both eloquent and vulnerable. Yet it is Desbarats who carried the show, effectively chronicling her character's journey into elderly womanhood. It is almost as if she not only changed costumes, but also changed bodies backstage. Her once able frame seems to sink into itself, appearing frail by the final scenes. Both Anthony and Desbarats maintain their solid accents and capture the idiosyncrasies of their aging characters with great sincerity.

Driving Miss Daisy is a success on multiple levels. Not only does it showcase a great story and a strong cast but it also proves, with the help of Fountainhead Theatreworks, that live theatre is a viable enterprise worthy of this city's utmost attention.

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Copyright The Gazette 2000