Tag Archives: Robert Harling

Steel Magnolias

(reviewed at the Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch on 21 September)

Woman may be a delicate blossom, like the white flowers for which Robert Harling named his 1987 play, but women are infinitely less fragile, hence the second word in the title Steel Magnolias. We are in small-town Louisiana in the south of the USA, specifically in a hair-dressing salon. Its proprietor is Truvvy (Sarah Mahony) and she’s just taken on a new-to-town assistant Annelle (Lucy Wells) – a born-again Christian.

The clientle is a faithfull one, using the salon as a neutral meeting-ground, rather like a club. There’s a former mayor’s wealthy widow Clairee (Tina Gray), the slightly eccentric dog-loving Ouiser (Gillian Cally) and mother and daughter M’Lynn (Claire Storey) and Shelby (Gemma Salter).

Shelby is about to be married; she’s also a diabetic. In her mother’s view, the two do not go together, as we see during the course of the drama which coves two-and-a-half years in four scenes. Director Liz Marsh and designers Dinah England (set and costumes) and Chris Howcroft (lighting) take us to the time and place and through the seasons with considerable style and dialect coach Richard Ryder has done sterling work.

The trouble is that those soft Southern inflections are not easily projected into the auditorium. So, though all the performances are very good in themselves, Storey’s long speech in the fourth scene didn’t really come across with all its painful recollection until its peroration.

Which is a pity as by this point we are thoroughly engaged in the human tragedy as well as with the personal crises of various types with which the characters are involved and which they manage to resolve collectively and with considerable finesse through a policy of give and take.

Steel Magnolias runs at the Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch until 10 October.

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Filed under Plays, Reviews 2015

Jump the queue season in Hornchurch

The Queen’s Theatre in Hornchurch is not the only one feeling the financial pinch, but it has obviously affected the number of main-house shows which its resident company cut to the chase… can mount each season. The Jump the Queue initiative, by which audience members who book in advance can see all three shows just announced for autumn 2015 at a bargain price of £12.50 each, therefore presents a bargain offer.

All three offer contrasts in style. First is Roll Over Beethoven by Bob Eaton. This is a stage world première loosely (very loosely) based on Hamlet. It’s a rock’n’roll musical, a forte of this company of actor-musicians, and you can see it between 21 August and 12 September. The setting is Essex and the time is the 1950s, when National Service was still a young man’s duty.

That is followed by Robert Harling’s Steel Magnolias (18 September to 10 October). As the blurb says: “Never underestimate the strength of a woman”. Again, we are taken back in time – this is set n the 1980s and the location is Louisiana. Neil Leyshon’s adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s spooky novella Don’t Look Now concludes the season from 23 October to 14 November. And then, of course, it’s panto time with Aladdin; his adventures are from 28 November through to 9 January.

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Filed under Reviews 2015