Miss Truvy’s Louisiana beauty parlour, six women discuss the comedy and
tragedy of life, analysing the nature of the human condition alongside
the nature of their strawberry pie recipes. Passing through a three
year time period as quickly as a nail polish dries, Robert Harling’s
conversational script is excellent, examining the importance of women
in Southern society as mothers and friends without descending into
was never going to be easy to follow Dolly Parton, Julia Roberts
and Sally Field in Robert Harling’s Academy Award nominated 1989
film, Steel Magnolias. Whilst it would not be fair
to judge Upstage Theatre Productions’ interpretation against the iconic
chick-flick, director Angela Darcy’s performance has shorn away much
of the sensitivity of the original, bleaching the undefined greys and
subtleties of the script and leaving it distinctly black and white.
the group of actresses are undoubtedly cohesive, the performance lacks
the artistic awareness of professional theatre. Amidst numerous slip
ups and poorly delivered lines, the casts’ accents travel from the
American South to the beauty parlours of California, losing much of the
wonderful script’s sharp wit in the constant maintenance of Louisiana
Miss Truvy’s rookie hair colourist Annelle, Lucy Mills is
heavy-footed and over-reactive, showing very little of the character’s
emotional maturation and debasing the drama of the play’s most pivotal
scene by trying too hard to look ditzy and, dare it be said, blonde.
Lynn Mulvenna’s M’Lynn, too, whilst a likeable stage presence, is
disappointingly restrained in the play’s explosive denouement, leaving
the conclusion of the piece as uninspiring and as deflated as a buffon
without enough mousse.
production is not without its charm. Amidst the overblown and the
underwhelming is Anne McMenemy’s performance as small town
entrepreneur, Clairee. Finding a vocal gentleness in her character,
McMenemy seems to be the only actress onstage who has thought about the
deeper meaning of the play’s title, bringing to her robust performance
the delicacy of a magnolia without resorting to the starkness of steel.
Screen’s set design, too, is a well-observed homage to the eighties,
covering the walls with floral print and black and white images of once
fashionable hairstyles. His intimate staging is well suited to both the
conversational script and to the size of the small venue, pulling the
audience into the hairdresser’s chair and filling their lungs with the
smells of Truvy’s French perfumes.
may well have been first night nerves or noxious hairspray fumes which
undid what could have been an excellent production. In time, perhaps,
the production will improve and, like the unfamiliarity of a new
haircut, grow into something altogether more likeable.