Sunday, May 14, 2023



Written by Robert Harling

Directed by Anne Somes

Free Rain Theatre production

ACT HUB Theatre, Kingston to May 20


Reviewed by Len Power May 13


Written in 1987, ‘Steel Magnolias’ is a play that celebrates the strength and friendship of a group of ordinary women who meet in the local beauty parlour.

Set in the fictional town of Chinquapin, Louisiana, ‘Steel Magnolias’ follows a group of close-knit friends as they navigate life's ups and downs together. Through humour, heartache, and unwavering support, these women prove that they are as tough as steel and as beautiful as magnolias.  Their men folk do not appear in the show but we get to know them and the goings on in the town very well through the conversations and gossip of these women.

The two level beauty parlour set has been cleverly designed by Cate Clelland.  A forest of hairdryers hangs from the ceiling and the technical equipment needed in such an establishment is clearly on view.  Real hair-washing, curler-setting and styling takes place while the women’s interaction and stories draw us ever deeper into the culture of this community.

From left: Helen McFarlane (Truvy), Katy Larkin (Annelle), Jess Waterhouse (Shelby), Janie Lawson (Clairee), Lainie Hart (Ouizer) and Victoria Tyrell Dixon (M'Lynn)

The performance of the ensemble cast of six women is extraordinary.  Their characterisations are colourful and very real.  We hang on their every word as they negotiate their way through rapid fire dialogue and the use of the myriad of props.  Accents are so well done that you accept them quickly as real southern American women.

Helen McFarlane is warm and sparkling as the proprietor of the salon, Truvy.  Katy Larkin plays Annelle.  New to the salon at the beginning of the play, she nicely portrays a hurt young woman growing in confidence with the support of those around her.  Janie Lawson is a master of comic timing and is very funny as the rich Clairee.

From left: Janie Lawson (Clairee), Lainee Hart (Ouizer), Helen McFarlane (Truvy), Victoria Tyrell Dixon (M'Lynn) and Katy Larkin (Annelle)

Victoria Tyrell Dixon as M’Lynn subtly plays a quiet woman who displays extraordinary strength as the play progresses.  Her daughter, Shelby, is played with heart-warming delicacy by Jess Waterhouse and Lainie Hart gives Ouizer a loud, formidable exterior covering a vulnerability underneath.

Director, Anne Somes, has created an extraordinary world on that stage with her highly capable cast and attention to detail.  For two hours, you’re just simply spellbound.

Tanya Taylor assisted by Fiona Leach was responsible for the thoughtful and attractive costuming.

This is a good play, directed and performed with skill.  Don’t miss it!

Photos by Janelle McMenamin

Len Power's reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 in the ‘Arts Cafe’ and ‘Arts About’ programs and published in his blog 'Just Power Writing' at