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Bound by the quiet freemasonry of age

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: February 21, 2013

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MOST people, partly because of the film starring Jessica Tandy and Morgan Freeman, are by now familiar with Alfred Uhry's Pulitzer prize-winning play.

Miss Daisy is a testy Atlanta widow who, after a spectacular car crash, is persuaded by her son to take on a chauffeur in the form of Hoke Coleburn. And, over the momentous quarter-century from 1948 to 1973 embracing the civil rights movement and growing desegregation, their rigid, professional relationship ripens into friendship and the quiet freemasonry of old age binds them strongly together.

In this new touring production Don Warrington is in the driving seat as the chauffeur and Gwen Taylor plays the 72-year-old widow.

Gwen will be well-known to many from the popular 1980s sitcom Duty Free, which attracted 16m viewers at its height and from her own series Barbara which ran for eight years in the 1990s.

She has also starred in Coronation Street and Heartbeat and has played many other roles, both on television and on stage.

"I don't always play nice women, though I play a lot who underneath their rough exteriors are the salt of the earth," she says. "I'm extremely lucky in being given parts I've loved and could get behind and throw my heart into."

She says she is looking forward very much to playing Miss Daisy.

"I'm following a line of very thin women who've played the part... originally Julie Harris, who's a very wonderful actress, then Jessica Tandy and then Vanessa Redgrave. All thin ladies," she says with a smile. "Well, they've got a plump Miss Daisy now and they'll have to put up with it.

"The play has a real point to make and is nice and gentle but engaging, and we have the gorgeous Don Warrington who is the driver."

Now 73 herself, Gwen has rarely gone for long without a job, and reflects: "It's because I'm prepared to play the less glamorous people if the writing's good.

"I don't see it as saving my appearance or career, it is an interesting and rewarding thing to do, and I've never been a great beauty, so I'm not trapped into trying to stay young.

"We're so lucky with actresses like Judi Dench and Eileen Atkins and Diana Rigg at the top – a wonderful selection of fantastic women, a stalwart bunch able to pull in the audiences."

And I am sure Gwen will do just the same when she takes to the stage in Plymouth next week.

Driving Miss Daisy plays at the Theatre Royal, from February 25 to March 2.

Details: 01752 267222 or online at www.theatreroyal.com/daisy

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