|Steel Magnolias - Full Cast - L- R
Helen McFarlane (Truvy) - Katy Larkin (Annelle) - Jess Waterhouse (Shelby)
Janie Lawson (Clairee) - Lainie Hart (Ouiser) - Victoria Tyrrell Dixon (M'Lynn)
Robert Harling – Directed by Anne Somes
by Cate Clelland – Lighting design by Craig Muller
by Justine Mullins – Costume design by Tanya Taylor and Fiona Leach
ACT Hub. 10th
– 20th May 2023.
on 13th May reviewed by Bill Stephens
“I don’t go
to plays because I can nap at home for free” remarks one of the characters in
Robert Harling’s keenly observed play about female friendship.
No danger of
napping in this production, which is given an affecting, thoughtful production
by Free Rain Theatre, stylishly directed by Anne Some’s.
a hairdressing salon in the fictional town of Chinquapin, Louisiana, provides
the perfect environment for a group of friends to meet and share gossip and
confidences and to provide comfort for each other when life deals out some
Clelland’s attractive, functional set design incorporating all the everyday
clutter of a well-equipped, small-town hairdressing salon looks authentic and
provides a convincing environment for the salon owner Truvy Jones and her new
assistant Annelle, to wash and set hair, apply nail treatments and serve
coffees for their clients.
authenticity of the environment is greatly supported by Justin Mullins' imaginative sound design which at various times incorporates barking dogs, gun
shots and radio programs. Craig Muller’s uneven lighting design however is less
successful, particularly in the first act when actors were often left in gloom
at the back of the stage even when engaged in the conversation.
|Jess Waterhouse (Shelby) - Victoria Tyrrell Dixon (McLynn) - Helen McFarlane (Truvy_
Jainee Lawson (Clairee) - Lainie Hart (Ouiser) - Katy Larkin (Annelle)
Magnolias” is very much an ensemble piece and Somes has assembled an
accomplished group of actors to portray the widely different personalities
required. As the Salon owner, Truvy Jones, Helen McFarlane oozes good humour
and efficiency as she goes about providing various treatments while calming
stressed clients or keeping some semblance of propriety when hijinks threaten
to get out of control. As her assistant,
Annelle, Katy Larkin captures the young woman’s initial insecurity, while
deftly portraying her growing self-confidence.
too attractive to really convince as Ouiser, the town harridan, Lainie Hart
never-the-less creates a delightfully quirky character who would be great to be around, while
Janie Lawson adds to her repertoire of interesting characters portraying the
warm-hearted, Clairee Belcher.
Harling has provided his characters with some killer dialogue to keep the
laughs coming, it’s the relationship between Shelby (Jess Waterhouse) and her
mother M’Lynn (Victoria Tyrrell Dixon) which is the centrepiece of the play.
Type 1 diabetes and has been warned against having children. Her
over-protective mother, M’lynn, is worried when Shelby marries, and horrified
when Shelby announces that she is pregnant.
|Lainie Hart (Ouiser) - Janie Lawson (Clairee) - Helen McFarlane (Truvy)
Victoria Tyrrell Dixon (M'Lynn)
Waterhouse and Tyrrell Dixon are quite wonderful depicting the tensions in
the loving mother/daughter relationship. The final scenes in which Tyrell
Dixon, as the stoic M’lynn, tries to shield her friends from her grief are
riveting and very moving.
While the attention
to detail with the props, the costumes and wigs throughout the play is
commendable, the absence of information regarding timelines between the acts, and
the challenge of coping with the variations in the broad Louisiana accents
detracted from the overall enjoyment of the production.
That said, over
the years Anne Somes with her Free Rain Theatre company has produced many
memorable productions. This production
of “Steel Magnolias” will take its place among her best.
This review also published in AUSTRALIAN ARTS REVIEW. www.artsreview.com.au