Presented by IpSkip Productions
Reviewed 10th January 2018
They came. They cried. They conquered.
Robert Harling’s 1987 comedy-drama Steel Magnolias, made famous by Herbert Ross’ 1989 film of the same name, explores the complex yet quotidian lives of six Louisiana women, during their visits to a beauty salon.
Despite some minor opening-night jitters, Director Nathan Quadrio’s cast all gave strong performances. Lisa Simonetti was endearing and maternal as the salon’s owner Truvy, demonstrating her playful side with some brilliant one-liners. Casmira Hambledon perfectly balanced Shelby’s youthful optimism with her intense vulnerability, thus establishing a profound connection with the audience, heightened by her later death. Whilst the character of M’Lynn felt underdeveloped in the play’s first act, Cate Rogers’ monologue at the play’s conclusion was stunning, transporting the audience completely into the world of her grief as she struggled to overcome her daughter’s death. The standout for this reviewer, however, was Georgia Broomhall, who perfectly captured the eccentric and religious Annelle, as the character attempts to find her feet in a new town. Rose Vallen as the stubborn Ouiser and Julie Quick as the well-to-do Clairee rounded out this powerhouse female cast.
The set, designed by Quadrio and constructed by Matthew Plummer, was simple yet effective, and teemed with accessories fitting of a beauty salon. Although Tim Bates’ lighting design was evocative and suitably naturalistic, the sound effects were less convincing.
Central to this piece is the celebration of women, and the close connection that binds them as friends and allies and traverses the boundaries of age, background, status and religion. This is evident in the celebration of the varied events from the pre-wedding preparations to the ultimate tradegy of Shelby’s premature demise. Such was the quality of the acting, for the males in the audience, it feels like an exclusive club that one would like to be included in, but will never be able to.
The main downside to this production was its short season; this was great community theatre.
Reviewed by Ben Francis
Venue: The Bakehouse Theatre
Season: 10th-13th January 2018
Duration: 2 hours plus interval
Tickets: Season ended.
Bookings: Season ended.