Gwen Taylor shares her experience getting ready to play Miss Daisy
We’ve just left the rehearsal room for the last time. Funny how you get so attached to what is after all, a pretty soulless place but because we are all working together with one aim… to create a brilliant work… camaraderie turns into actual dependency.
We’ve been in a lovely safe space and tomorrow, Monday, we will be in a totally different environment; The Gaiety Theatre.
My feelings about the play DRIVING MISS DAISY are coloured by the fact that I have played Miss Daisy before, on a tour around England. My driver, Hoke, has also played that character many times, so we’ve both had to put those other performances out of our minds and be open to new ideas. I think we’ve done it and we’ve been tremendously helped by our Director, John P. Kelly and by Simon Delaney, who is playing my son Boolie and brings a freshness and joy to the part which has brought new things out for me.
So, deep breaths and final checks over lines and some changes and then into the theatre. I already know what the auditorium is like having enjoyed John B. Keane’s THE MATCHMAKER there. Now however it’s stage and backstage will be my habitat. I’m told I will have Dressing Room 1… which has it’s own toilet which is a rare and beautiful thing to have, especially in old theatres….and old age!
I am here with my husband, Graham Reid, the playwright and we are getting to know a little about this extraordinary city. The last time we were here together was when I was part of a tour of CALENDAR GIRLS. We were two weeks at the Grand Canal Theatre, which I believe has a new name which I won’t attempt to spell. Audiences for that show were very appreciative and that whetted my appetite to come back at some stage. It also serves to remind me of two lovely ladies, Bernie Nolan and Linda Bellingham, members of that cast who are now, alas, no longer with us.
I’ve been surprised and thrilled by the amount of theatre going on in this city. We’ve enjoyed JUNO AND THE PAYCOCK; THE PLOUGH AND THE STARS and WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF. The bar has been set very high by these performances and I feel that I must be on my mettle!
One of the things about this city which has delighted me has been the warmth and helpfulness of the shop assistants… particularly Jackie in lingerie in Marks & Spencers and two lovely girls in the Shoe Garden, both in Henry Street.
We are staying right next to Herbert Park which is such a calm place to walk everyday. There are families with tiny children and families with tiny ducklings and the feeling that ‘Spring is bustin’ out all over’.
Perhaps I should say a little about the play. Ernest Perry Jrn. Who plays Hoke Coleburn, the driver, calls it a love story sans sex but it is also a comment on aspects of American social history between 1948 and 1969 a time of great change and challenges… the age of Martin Luther King…. Klu Klux Klan activity and segregated schooling and of course the assassinations of the Kennedys.
Let me say a little bit about Miss Daisy herself. She is in her early seventies and a widow when the play starts. She has one son who she finds it difficult to show affection for and a daughter-in-law whom she actively dislikes. She’s Jewish, from humble beginnings but became a school teacher, made a good marriage and is now well off. However she’s always award that is could all go away if she’s not careful about money. She’s spikey and sometimes bad tempered and she likes to keep her business private. I won’t tell you anymore, or you won’t need to come and see the play. Please do, I think you’ll understand these three people very well and even though it’s a period piece, I believe it will resonate with modern life.
Well I have to stop now and think about lunch…. The food’s good here by the way. Lots of lovely breads and good healthy soups. Have you had stew at the Peacock café? To die for. I am not a small person and will have to be careful of Miss Daisy won’t get into her costume tomorrow!
Our first preview is on Wednesday and we’re at the stage when we feel we need an audience to share all this with us. The action of the play takes place in Atlanta, Georgia and the accent is quite specific, so how lucky for us that Ernest is on hand to correct any faults.
Wish me luck, or tell me to ‘break a leg’ as we say. See you all the the Gaiety.
Tickets for Driving Miss Daisy at The Gaiety Theatre from 4 – 28 May are on sale now.