Wednesday, September 29, 2010

‘Steel Magnolias’ by Robert Harling

29 September 2010

Last Friday we were at the TADS Theatre in Toddington to see ‘Steel Magnolias’ by Robert Harling. Having not seen the 1989 film, I came to the play without knowing what to expect and was very impressed. ‘Steel Magnolias’ is set in a beauty parlour in a small town in Louisiana in which six women meet, talk and have their hair done. Taking on the challenge of live hairdressing and manicures on stage while maintaining impeccable Southern accents is no mean feat for an amateur company but one accomplished very slickly by TADS. I liked the episodic nature of the play: there are four scenes between which months or years have passed and you have to read between the lines to work out what has happened to each of the characters since you last saw them. The script is very witty with some extremely funny lines, which makes the tragic finale all the more poignant – maybe a little overly sentimental but there certainly wasn’t a dry eye in the house. The beauty parlour set was beautifully realised with a random assortment of mirrors around and above the stage which provided wonderful tableaux of the characters from different angles, allowing you to see the faces of actors even when they had their backs to the audience. The TADS production was very well cast: I particularly liked Tricia O’Toole, who gave Shelby just the right mixture of knowingness and naivety, and Rachel Birks as the beauty parlour proprietor Truvy. Truvy is a short, blonde woman with high heels, big hair and a big bust: I wonder which part Dolly Parton played in the film?!

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