Steel Magnolias

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The Maltings
Eastern Lane, Berwick-on-Tweed, Northumberland TD15 1AJ
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WHAT IS IT ABOUT?

A warm-hearted comedy set in a beauty parlour in the American deep South. The action is set in Truvy's beauty salon in Chinquapin, Louisiana, where all the ladies who are "anybody" come to have their hair done. Helped by her eager new assistant, Annelle (who is not sure whether or not she is still married), the outspoken, wise-cracking Truvy dispenses shampoos and free advice to the town's rich curmudgeon, Ouiser, ("I'm not crazy, I've just been in a bad mood for 40 years"); an eccentric millionaire, Miss Clairee, who has a raging sweet tooth; and the local social leader, M'Lynn, whose daughter, Shelby (the prettiest girl in town), is about to marry a "good ole boy." Robert Harling's play began as a short story about the death of his diabetic sister following childbirth, before it evolved into a play. Harling was a model and an actor at the time. The off-Broadway WPA Theatre first produced the work, before, following revisions by Harling, it moved to Broadway, opening June 19, 1987, at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, and running for 1,126 performances. Steel Magnolias made its way to the big screen in 1989, featuring Sally Field, Dolly Parton, Shirley MacLaine, Daryl Hannah, Olympia Dukakis, and Julia Roberts. The film version expanded the story to include the men who are only alluded to in the stage version. The close-knit circle of women at Truvy's Beauty Salon, the unofficial hub of Chinquapin, have lots of time to gossip. Their husbands - absent, depressed or dead - have made sure of that. Consequently, visitors to the salon get more than a wash and a cut. Alternately hilarious and touching, the play focuses on the camaraderie of these six Southern women who talk, gab, gossip, chitchat, needle and harangue each other through the best of times - and cry, caress, comfort and repair one another through the worst. They are soul mates in a rarefied way that assumes a cult of femininity - sisters come hell and high water. The women at Truvy's beauty parlour are the steel magnolias of the title: Southern belles, flowery on the outside, but strong enough inside to survive any challenge, many of which are presented throughout the course of the narrative.