Tauranga audiences are generally well served by their local theatres but every once in a while a production comes along that runs as sweetly as a well-tuned '53 Chevvy with all eight cylinders firing on high-octane gas.

Three of Detour's most seasoned actors have been perfecting Deep South accents and turn in some of their finest performances in Driving Miss Daisy, which runs until September 29.

Kim Williamson clearly relishes playing the irascible Miss Daisy, a wealthy widow living down Georgia way who is reluctantly forced to give up driving by her son Boolie (Chris Parnell) after crashing her car and demolishing the garage.

Her protests that it was all the misbehaving car's fault – "Mama, cars don't misbehave, they are misbehaved upon," Boolie corrects her in one of the many classic lines from Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Alfred Uhry – are to no avail.


So it is that Hoke (David Tauranga) enters Miss Daisy's closeted world as the long-suffering driver who now holds the keys, literally, to her forays by automobile. Tauranga takes to the part like he has been waiting for it to come along all his acting life.

Miss Daisy's icy hostility to her hired help slowly, oh so slowly, thaws into a warm friendship. As their bond grows, she realises they have much more in common than she thought.

Growing up in the Atlanta of the 1950s and '60s, Hoke has spent his life coping with the horrors of discrimination. After her synagogue is bombed, the Jewish Miss Daisy realises that she too is a victim of prejudice.

Incredibly, the play covers a 25-year span from 1947 to 1972, cleverly characterised on stage by subtle changes of make-up, props and mannerisms.

It is a delight to watch three such accomplished actors work in perfect harmony together, armed with a world-class script.

That chemistry clearly extends to director Devon Williamson, who has wrung every ounce of the understated humour and pathos of which Uhry is a master, emphasising even such nuanced details as Hoke continually glancing at Miss Daisy through the rear-view mirror as he drives her and his raised foot on the accelerator.

While the set remains unchanged through the performance, slick use of lighting allows scene changes that are almost as seamless as those in the 1989 movie starring Jessica Tandy, Dan Aykroyd and Morgan Freeman, which rightly swept the board at the follow year's Oscars.

It took courage and an unflinching confidence in the theatre's pool of talent to stage this funny, moving and heart-warming production, and the Detour crew pull it off with a passion.


Driving Miss Daisy is a show not to be missed.