Gwen Taylor is one of Britain's leading actresses. Gwen trained at East 15 Acting School and has since become a familiar face as Barbara Liversidge in Barbara, Peggy Armstrong in Heartbeat and most recently Anne Foster in Coronation Street.
Now into an extension of the 2012 UK tour, Gwen leads in the heartwarming tale of Driving Miss Daisy. In Georgia, Atlanta, beginning in 1948 and lasting throughout the 50's and 60's, Alfred Uhry's 1987 Off-Broadway play tells the story of Miss Daisy Werthan, an elderly white Jewish woman and her unlikely friendship with black African-American chauffeur Hoke Coleburn of whom she reluctantly relies on to get around town.
Gwen: I saw this production in the West End which ran in late 2011 at the Wyndham's Theatre. At the time I had no idea that I would later be doing the tour, and I actually have little recollection of the show itself. I was completely overwhelmed by the fact that I was here watching Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones (who has now taken the show to Australia with Angela Lansbury in the title role). I remember it being such a fantastic play - but the excitement of seeing such great actors is what I remember most about it. I also don't recall much of the film, although I do remember seeing it when it first came out in 1989 starring Morgan Freeman and the wonderful Jessica Tandy.
Gwen Taylor and Don Warrington
Driving Miss Daisy is the first play in Uhry's 'Atlanta Trilogy' of Jewish stories set during the mid 20th Century that includes the play The Last Night Of Ballyhoo and the musical Parade. It is a story about the loss of independence, Miss Daisy (a character based on Uhry's own grandmother) finds herself reluctant to rely on others and her modesty at first won't allow for a chauffeur. We see Miss Daisy struggle to accept Hoke's preferred directions and her gradual deterioration throughout the one-act play.
Miss Daisy has money, she's rather well off but doesn't like to boast airs and graces. I was worried that I wasn't right for the part and a phone call to America with the director David Esbjornson assured me I was wrong. The Miss Daisy's I had seen were all very similar in appearance, and nothing at all like me. But the character's not about how you look, she doesn't require a certain appearance as long as she goes along the journey to acceptance.
Miss Daisy goes on a journey not just in the car, but in her character too. After crashing her own vehicle she has to accept that she's less capable now and forms an unlikely friendship on the other side of the race divide with her driver Hoke, who is also facing life's struggles. Look at when and where it's set, black's knew their place. Just as it's starts there isn't any particular trouble, the segregation is still accepted. It's like a history lesson, a fun one though! We've had school groups in which has been great to see. It's not just a play for old people, the kids are learning, but through an alternative method.
It's not boring for the kids either, the show is very fast paced. There's no interval, it's 90 minutes of pure entertainment. We're on stage, we're off, quickly getting changed and straight back on again, sometimes ageing years in seconds! There's only three of us on stage, myself, Don Warrington (Hoke) and Ian Porter who plays Miss Daisy's son Boolie Werthan. We have a large crew backstage though, so it's not really like there's only three of us - we're a big family! Myself and Ian go way back, it's great to be working with him again. We were last together too long ago for a production of The Glass Menagerie and he hasn't changed one bit!
The show has been very well received so far, obviously as we're into an extension of the original tour. The audiences in my hometown of Derby are always very kind to me, and the support there was overwhelming. I always get emotional playing to my home audience - I have so many friends and family in to watch. We had to put on an extra matinee in Derby to cope with demand, and that sold incredibly well. I've never been to Wolverhampton though, I've heard the Grand theatre is indeed grand, and I'm very much looking forward to playing there for the final venue of the tour.
Tickets for Driving Miss Daisy at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre can be booked here.
Promotional video for the tour: