Lansbury, Jones excel in Driving Miss Daisy premiereTheatre
Driving Miss Daisy down under
Angela Lansbury and James Earl Jones on acting your age.PT2M17S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2cciv 620 349 January 7, 2013
- Driving Miss Daisy
They are universally acclaimed as two of the world's greatest living actors - both are in their 80s and both insist they are still learning their craft.
But if the performance Angela Lansbury and James Earl Jones delivered on Saturday night at the Australian premiere of Driving Miss Daisy is anything to go by, they have precious little left to learn.
The season at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre in Brisbane was to be their only Australian appearance, but with tickets close to sold out before the opening night, seasons were quickly added in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide.
Driving Miss Daisy stars James Earl Jones and Angela Lansbury. Photo: Kate Geraghty
Lansbury, the elderly Southern Jewish woman Daisy Werthan, and Jones, her chauffeur, Hoke Colburn, are joined by four-time Tony award winner Boyd Gaines as Miss Daisy's son Boolie, under the perceptive direction of David Esbjornson.
Lansbury and Jones understandably attracted the lion's share of publicity in the lead up to the show, but Gaines' performance is one of quiet authority.
He is the connective tissue that helps bind the mesmerising characters of Miss Daisy and Hoke.
Driving Miss Daisy stars Angela Lansbury and James Earl Jones face media in Brisbane. Photo: Natalie Bochenski
If ever there was an example of masters of the art making their job look effortless, Lansbury and Jones have provided it.
Laughter shook the Playhouse throughout the uninterrupted 90 minutes, and more than a few tears were shed in the gentle closing scene, which was full of understanding, companionship and grace.
The way Lansbury, 87, and Jones, 82, handle the ageing of their characters reflects the depth of their skill.
Five-time Tony Award and three-time Academy Award nominee Angela Lansbury and two-time Tony Award winner and Honorary Academy Award recipient James Earl Jones address the press in Brisbane to mark the opening of their season of Alfred Uhry's Pulitzer Prize-winning classic play Driving Miss Daisy. Photo: Natalie Bochenski
Lansbury has adopted a subtle approach to portraying an elderly woman in the twilight decades of her life, from the ages of 72 to 97.
"I indicate it by various means, by the way I walk, my physical attitude," she told reporters at a media conference on Friday.
"But I don't make a big thing of it because the audience knows, and they do a lot of the work for us in the theatre.
"As long as we indicate something they will take it and they understand - you do the work for me and I help."
Jones said the ageing process of the couple was an important part of the way the play was designed.
"It does beg the audience's imagination, and is done in little boxes, little windows," he said.
"And in those windows, you put it together."
Gaines, who was born and raised in the South, says people should remember Driving Miss Daisy is not a political play.
"It's a play about a family, about relationships that evolve, despite racism, despite inequality, and all of the characters grow in spite of these restrictions and injustices."
Jones agrees the play is a timely reminder that segregation in countries such as America and South Africa was dismantled only in recent times.
"This might have been one of the earliest pieces of art that did that," he said.
"It showed the world, and especially Americans, just what was going on back there, and did it not within political terms but in artistic terms, in character terms, in psychological terms."
Coming to New York from England in 1940, Lansbury found racial segregation an alien concept.
"The northern situation was quite different to what it was down in the south," she said.
"But when I went down to the south to Baton Rouge and Louisiana to make a movie called The Long Hot Summer with Paul Newman, I was totally aware of it.
"It was a shock to me, an absolute shock, and I didn't really know how to deal with it.
"Of course I did, but it was a whole atmosphere that I was very uncomfortable in." No one should be surprised at Lansbury's resilience.
More than 50 years ago she drove from Sydney, where she was filming Summer Of The Seventeenth Doll, to Alice Springs.
It's not a trip she ever wants to repeat, however.
Asked what she would like to see during her free time between performances in Australia, she made it clear another trip to the red centre was not on her list.
"I want to see everything that's marvellous about the cities and the land and so on.
"I don't want to go to Alice Springs, I'll tell you that," she said with a laugh.
"I drove all the way there in my Hillman Minx in 1958."
She knocked back a jocular offer by Jones to drive her there - on the left hand side of the road.
Driving Miss Daisy plays in Brisbane until February 24 with seasons in Sydney from March 1, Melbourne from April 5 and Adelaide from May 17.