Elegant, pared down and beautifully acted, the strength of this play with its cast of three and minimal set, is its sheer simplicity.

Based on a true story, Alfred Uhry’s play features ageing Jewish widow Daisy Werthan (Dame Sian Phillips), unable to drive after demolishing her garage with some over enthusiastic parking; her son Bollie (Teddy Kempner), a well-meaning pillar of the Atlanta business community; and chauffeur Hoke Colburn (Derek Griffiths), who is employed by Bollie to drive the stubborn Miss Daisy around town.

Daisy is white and rich, Hoke is black and poor, dressed in a hand-me-down suit from his previous employer. But that’s not the reason Daisy is so hard to win over; it’s more fundamental than that: she is scared of getting old and losing her independence.

This is as much a play about ageing as it is about master-servant relationships.

Colour does play a key role though, with the pair’s touching friendship blossoming against the backdrop of the Civil Rights struggle.

Daisy is forced to confront the reality of life in the Deep South when her synagogue is bombed by racists – her incomprehension greeted with world weary acceptance by Hoke who tells her of his childhood memory of witnessing a lynching, the audience audibly gasping at the description.

Daisy fails to see the irony of attending a dinner hosted by Martin Luther King, while leaving Hoke in the car, as if ashamed to be seen in polite company with a black working class man.

The cast put in faultless performances delivering perfect Southern US accents. Griffiths is particularly wonderful. An icon of children’s television (Play School and Play Away) in the 70s, he is a pioneer himself – being one of the country’s first black TV presenters. He also has a respectable stage and screen CV under his belt.

There is no hint of victim in his portrayal of the proud Hoke. A moment where he chastises Daisy for not allowing him to stop the car and “make water” beside the road – the gas station not allowing “coloured folk” to use the washrooms – is particularly powerful.

This is a wonderful play, showing that, in expert hands, less really is more.


On until Saturday. oxfordplayhouse.com