Steel Magnolias

Date 13th July 2017
Society Portable Theatre Company
Venue Warkworth Village Hall
Type of Production Play
Director Collaboratively directed by the cast

Report

Author: Kathryn Curry

The ‘Portable Theatre Company’ is to be congratulated for its debut production of ‘Steel Magnolias’. The aim of this new theatre company is to take theatre to small venues with productions for local people and holiday makers to enjoy. This company gave us a wonderful night as this was small village theatre at its very best in every aspect. Written in 1987 Steel Magnolias is based on the true-life story of Robert Harling’s (The Author) sister’s struggle with diabetes. The play revolves around Truvy’s beauty salon in the 1980’s in Chinquapin, in Louisiana and follows the lives of a group of close friends over two and a half years through seasonal changes.

The set was excellent. The whole design worked exceptionally well – we really could have been in a hairdressing salon, especially on such a small stage. Props were superb and in keeping with the era.  Lighting and sound effects enhanced the scenes to give the feeling of changes in seasons and passages of time. They were effective and well controlled. Hair/wigs, make-up and costumes were extremely well thought out and the many changes were extremely appropriate to the storyline. The back drops were clever and they worked well in adding extra dimensions to the set e.g. the hair washing corner ‘an innovative idea’ and very successful indeed when being used, also the effect of hair driers. The positioning of the styling area was very well managed and was centre stage with all the artefacts needed for styling in between two chairs and the interaction between the hairdressers and their clients looking towards the audience as if talking through the mirrors was superb and kept going all the time; so we could really imagine the actors being in a real salon.

The six ladies in the cast were excellent performers and were word perfect in their delivery; there was a lot of dialogue to learn yet the dialogue flowed effortlessly and the pace was good and the one liners were clear and well judged by the performers allowing for appreciation from the audience. The women discussed their various relationships and we learned how each ones experiences impacted upon the others. Talents were used to the full to reflect humour, tragedy, pathos and innocence. Clairee ‘Lynne Lambert’ was a super part for Lynne who was able to showcase her experience and superb acting talent. Ouiser ‘Arlene Cadman’ raised the level even more when she entered, what a star performer this lady is; and in her imitable style quite simply gave a delightful performance. Mother M’Lynn ‘Carol Robson’ and daughter Shelby ‘Claire Teasdale’s’ chemistry was clear though out and both gave stalwart performances in developing their roles. Claire brought out the poignancy and determination of her character and was perfect for the part.  Carol was exceptional in her dramatically emotional outburst in the closing scene. This extremely convincing outburst left us all shocked. Very thought provoking!  The expertise of the two hairdressers Truvy ‘Sally Pumford’ and apprentice Annelee ‘Sarah Purvis’, whilst simultaneously delivering lines and one liners and at the same time dressing hair, etc was excellent. Two very slick performers. Sarah was very impressive whilst shampooing and keeping the action running smoothly!

This was a very powerful piece and your concerted direction ensured the essential characters of each of the cast were well developed, with each character maintaining their persona throughout. The whole company are to be congratulated for their insight and creativity in their first production which was greatly appreciated by the audience at the end of the production when the audience rose to give a ‘Standing Ovation’. The camaraderie between these six women was evident and memorable performances provided us with an evening of very witty humour and at times very emotional entertainment. My sincere congratulations to cast, crew and production team for an excellent production and a wonderful evening of amateur entertainment.