Regardless of the play, theatre is always an act of courage:
How to convince an audience that what they see on stage matters, not just as entertainment, but as an exploration of intense moments of human experience.
You’d think the courage to attempt this is especially necessary for new and experimental theatre, for works that seek to transport audiences to previously unknown territories of form or content or style.
But often the greatest courage needed is in revisiting stories that are already familiar to audiences. How do you present on stage something like Driving Miss Daisy, a show that almost everyone has seen in the memorable Oscar-winning movie with Jessica Tandy and Morgan Freeman, and manage to make it fresh and meaningful.
This is the challenge faced by Vancouver’s Arts Club Theatre in the production it is currently touring through BC which will be presented by ArtSpring on February 10 and 11.
The story of course concerns a proper and somewhat ornery Southern matron who is obliged by virtue of her age to engage the services of a black chauffeur. Over the course of several decades in the 1950s and 60s they gradually overcome the differences that initially separate them – differences of race, gender, wealth and sensibility – to form a deep and enduring friendship.
The film was made 25 years ago. Watch it now and you can’t help but be struck by a certain saccharine evasion of the real issues. Despite the fine acting by both Tandy and Freeman, the direction generally shies away from the deeper dynamics of race, the connections between the individual and his/her historical context, or the tensions and attractions of human intimacy.
Beautifully made as it is, the film encourages us to keep our distance from the two characters, to approve of them at arms length, so to speak. Ironically for a visual medium, it tells the story more than showing it, at least at the deeper levels of the characters’ inner lives.
This may be a drawback of film as a medium generally, at least in contrast to live theatre, which works, if it works at all, by going straight to the inner mechanisms of human experience. The actors, after all, are real human beings in front of us on the stage. They play roles to be sure, but live acting taps reservoirs of real human conflict, feeling and emotional truth.
So if we wonder what the point is of doing a stage production of Driving Miss Daisy after the long success of the movie, the answer is that we have the chance to see how live actors can restore the inner drama of the story which the camera misses by virtue of being, well, a camera.
The Arts Club Theatre has a long tradition of strong and thoughtful productions, and their current tour of Driving Miss Daisy will offer a good evening’s theatre at the least, and promises a more incisive and gripping reading of the familiar story than the famous film.
ArtSpring is betting the experience of the live stage production will be rewarding for Salt Spring audiences, and so has booked two performances.
Tickets for both performances, at $25 regular or $5 for all youth under 18, are available from the ArtSpring Ticket Centre at 537-2102 or online.