Steel Magnolias was written by Robert Harling as a play in the 1980’s following the tragic death of his diabetic sister. It is no wonder, therefore, that the depth of feelings revealed touches the soul, as it is undoubtedly a cathartic and clever piece of writing. Although perhaps better known as a film, which was released in 1989, the stage production is somehow more intimate, almost as if you are in the parlour waiting to have your hair done and listening in to other peoples’ conversations.
The play in the first instance appears as a light, gossipy piece of trivia. It is set throughout in ‘Truvy’s’ hair and beauty parlour in Deep South Louisiana in typical 80’s style. Six women share their fears, loves, hates, aspirations and grief, demonstrating the true power of sisterhood. The big backcombed hair, frizzy perms, batwing fashion and southern drawl all add to the atmosphere as you are transported through two years of these intrinsically linked lives.
The set is true to the finest detail leaving no doubt as to the era.
The women cast in their respective roles are superb.
Denise Welch as Truvy, the owner of the parlour, is a larger than life character proving once again her acting prowess. She is gutsy, fun and upbeat, the central axle of the action.
Isla Blair solidly portrays M’Lynn the mother of the bride, typically over protective of her diabetic daughter and tugging at the heart strings of every parent in the audience. Her performance in the latter stages relaying details of the tragic events, is touching and totally believable, provoking utter silence from the auditorium.
Daughter Shelby is a whimsical yet determined young lady, played understatedly by Sadie Pickering. Her performance is of touching poignancy, particularly as events unfold.
The wonderfully comical part of Ouiser Cheryl Campbell breezes on to the stage and wows the audience with her quick wit, brilliant one liners and flair.
Kacey Ainsworth is well cast as Annelle, the ditsy new recruit at the parlour and Cherie Lunghi the stylish Clairee, recently widowed, proves once again her versatility.
Perhaps more for the women than the men Steel Magnolias is none the less a powerful story with fine actresses bringing the lives of these six characters to life. Although slow to build, the climax in this true life story is well worth waiting for.