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Driving Miss Daisy at Chichester Festival Theatre

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Freelance journalist with a passion for theatre, the arts, food and books.
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Acting Great Sian Phillips Back On Stage
Starring one of British theatre's great actresses, the charming tale of Driving Miss Daisy is back on stage and touring to Chichester.

Driving miss daisy tour, Derek griffiths, Sian Phillips,
The charming story of Driving Miss Daisy

The latest tour stars award-winning Dame Sian Phillips at the centre of this sentimental Southern American story about friendship and racial prejudice,

Driving Miss Daisy reaches Chichester Festival Theatre near Southampton on November 28, where it stays for a week until December 2.

I caught the show earlier in the tour at Malvern Theatre's and was left thoroughly impressed. Phillips plays elderly and independent widow Daisy Werthan, whose son hires her an African American chauffeur Hake Colburn in 1940's America.

Driving miss daisy tour, Derek griffiths, Sian Phillips,
The play stars acting great - Sian Phillips.

The play follows the pair's gentle relationship over 25 years with an emphasis on the comedy as much as the subtle drama. Phillips has spent more than seven decades in the acting business across tv, film and stage and it shows. She's so natural on stage that you forget she's acting.

In fact, it feels a surprise when the actress jumps out of her chair, as sprightly as a hare, at the close of the play after you've see her playing Daisy as a vulnerable shuffling woman in her 90's.

Opposite her is another distinguished actor - Derek Griffiths. He may be well known for children's TV show Play School and Coronation Street of late, but he's also gained acclaim at the Royal Shakespeare Company and won a Best Actor Award for his performance in Nude With Violin at Manchester's Royal Exchange Theatre.

He is charismatic on stage as quick-witted, likeable chauffeur Hoke and is a great pairing for Phillips. They have a delightful chemistry that brings alive this genteel mature friendship.

Driving miss daisy tour, Derek griffiths, Sian Phillips,
A strong cast includes Derek Griffiths

The only other character is Daisy's son Boolie, who is played by an excellent Teddy Kempner. He holds his own in the small but strong cast of three.

The slick production is from Theatre Royal Bath that has created the atmosphere of the Deep South with the white clapperboard set that cleverly opens out in various places to add scenery. It's a gradual journey through the pair's friendship told through a series of encounters. It may take its time but over two hours, tough issues are thrown into the mix like racial prejudice, anti-semitism and civil unrest, which all make this show so more than just a friendship drama.

Often, it's what's left unsaid that is just as poignant and director Richard Beecham gives plenty of space and time for these moments.

Driving miss daisy tour, Derek griffiths, Sian Phillips,
Teddy Kempner plays Miss Daisy's likeable son

The play started life in the Theatres - as an off-Broadway production in 1987, which led to the Oscar-winning film version in 1989 that clinched four Academy Awards.

It's good to see it back on stage and this well-acted, carefully directed, fine production does the story proud. It has a particularly touching close to the play that fits beautifully. Catch it while you can.

Driving Miss Daisy is at Chichester Festival Theatre from 28 November to 2 December.
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Why? See an acting great on stage
When: Nov 28 - Dec 2, 2017
Phone: 01243781312
Where: Chichester Festival Theatre
Cost: From £15
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