REVIEW – Steel Magnolias, Newcastle

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ROBERT Harding wrote this as a tribute to his sister who died young.

After three quarters of a play that is basically a good-time, light-hearted sitcom, the audience is confronted with a tragedy that had some people weeping with grief and others in disbelief.

That’s the nature of this hearty play, which sets its stall out early on with the big hair, Texan drawls, loud and brash characters and some cracking one-liners.

Set in Truvy’s hair salon (where the ethos is “beauty is not natural”), which boasts pinks and primary colours, it is reminiscent of 1950s small-town America where men were the breadwinners and women of that generation really didn’t have careers to think of.

Truvy (Denise Welsh in a Dolly Parton-style hair) and her assistant Annelle (Kacey Aisworth) are visited by clients and, ultimately, friends who gossip, laugh and share secrets of their own.

Clairee (Cherie Lunghi), Shelby (Sadie Pickering), M’Lynn (Isla Blair) and Ouiser (Cheryl Campbell) make up the clientele and each has a story to tell about their menfolk and opinions on what’s happening in their small world.

The first half comes in at one hour 15 minutes and could have been cut drastically as there is no plot to talk of.

The second half is shorter and better. The banter continues and there are some cracking gags as the ladies cackle and laugh and are there to comfort each other when tragedy strikes.

Ed Waugh