Southern tears and laughter

AN ALMOST full house laughed and cried at the Playhouse with the strong, six woman cast as Sleaford Little Theatre performed Steel Magnolias.

Having not watched the hit ‘80s movie, I was pleasantly surprised at how universally accessible this play was, as its endearing and witty, yet powerful script had us on a rollercoaster of emotions.

There was everything from quips by Louisiana beauty parlour boss Truvy (Hazel Bridgen) such as ‘my swimsuit didn’t lift and separate – more like divide and conquer’, to a spine tingling monologue by Emma Albuixech as M’Lynn who pours out her heartbreak when the operation to donate one of her kidneys to save her sick daughter Shelby fails and she loses her.

The set came complete with working sinks for customers’ hair.

Things soon warmed up, with the six actresses working well together. Tina Hodgson as the feisty and outspoken Miss Ouiser stood out as she confidently stormed about the stage, ranting about her traumatised collie dog and her battles over the magnolia tree with her friend’s husband who attempts to scare the birds using dynamite strapped to a bow and arrow!

Hazel Bridgen was lovely as Truvy, while Helen Nicholson, a complete newcomer to the group, appeared totally at home as Miss Claire, with style and professionalism. The play sees the characters’ lives move on within the context of the salon, bringing milestones such as children leaving home, childbirth and rekindling of old flames. The happiness of a wedding descends into anxiety as Shelby (well done by Hayley Baker) announces her pregnancy, which eventually is the death of her.

Charlotte Shearsby as Annelle plays a good supporting role as the stranger in town with a past who is mothered by the older women. As expected Emma Albuixech’s outpouring at the end had a number of people drying their eyes, but still left us on a positive note.

This small cast delivered a truly inspiring performance – an ideal autumn show.