Based on a true story, and the beloved hit film with the same name, the well-established play, Steel Magnolias is currently on a UK tour. With a stellar star cast, and ounces of comedy, the show feels like the ultimate comfort piece, yet still a worthy night out.
All the the gossip is shared within the walls of Truvy's beauty salon, and the place becomes a thriving hub for connection between the women in the area. In their small Southern American town, six offer their perspectives on their joys and struggles endured in every aspect of life. New to the neighbourhood, and just landed her job at the parlour, Annelle (played by Elizabeth Ayodele) is getting accustomed to the regulars, as Truvy (Lucy Speed) begins to introduce them upon visiting. Wealthy widow of the Mayor, Clairee (Caroline Harker) comes in too, and while preparing for her wedding, Shelby (Diana Vickers) and mother-of-the-bride, M'Lynn (Laura Main) are there to style up for the big day. Shortly after, the feisty and prickly (yet often rather truthful!) Ouiser, brings another league of laughs with her stubborn attitudes. Together, through their thick accents, the group convey strong friendships with one another, and show skill in their parts when navigating these.
For those who know the film, this version of the plot may not be as emotional for audiences. Despite the complete silence in the room at the occurrence of dramatic events, the build up isn't portrayed in a progressive way; instead only discussed- no spoilers here though, so you either know, or have to see it!
Designed by Laura Hopkins, the wooden panelled set stays largely the same throughout each act, as the action remains in the same space. However, the interval brings a complete reversal, in a frankly ingenious flip of the room, changing the view to the direct opposite to how it was previously, which cleverly brings interest. Understandably though, particularly since it must accommodate touring, limited set is required, which therefore perhaps doesn't portray key scenes such as the magnolia tree at Shelby's wedding, subsequently only leaving it mentioned, despite being key to the name.
Reminiscent of the 80s, the costumes were an outstanding representation of fashion at the time. While Susan Kulkarni has devised those, Richard Mawbey's wig work displays the vast range of big and bold hairstyles of the era, of utmost importance in a place where hair is everything!
In all, Steel Magnolias is funny, thoughtful and feel-good. Directed by Anthony Banks, it encompasses a lot in a way that does the classic the justice it deserves. The talent possessed by this wonderful cast knows no bounds.