Steel Magnolias by Robert Harling

Pictures by kind permission of Peter Sillick.

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Steel Magnolias

One of Robert Harling's longer plays:- 'Steel Magnolias', was recently given an excellent airing by the Tilbourne Players at the Tilford Institute. This is a play based on real-life experience by the playwright. Billed as a comedy, it's a play in which profound and complex emotions are inter-twined with with an engaging and entertaining plot.

The action is set in a beauty parlour in north-west Louisiana, and opens when the owner, Truvy Jones (played by Brezetta Thonger) is hiring a new assistant - Annelle. Truvy was convincing as a peace-maker, really looked the part, and comically played her character to advantage. I greatly enjoyed watching Annelle (played by Sarah Owens) make her metamorposis from nervous newcomer in town, to a party animal and then to a revivalist born-again Christian.

The other characters were introduced in rapid succession as the plot unfolded. Terminally ill Shelby (Helen Phillips) managed to stoically combine the sensitive performance energy of youth, with the underlying pathos associated with severe illness.

Hilary Lee-Corbin (who played Ouiser Boudreaux) gave a vibrant and yet nuanced performance of the cynical, curmudgeonly, but wise Southern matriarch. I greatly enjoyed the sparky partnership between her and Clairee (Marion Homer) who truly excelled as the grande dame of the play.

Jane Quicke played M Lynn Eatenton very dramatically and gave an admirable performance throughout.

I thought that the entire cast performed very well, utilising humour and light-hearted conversations to defuse the seriousness of the underlying situation.

As the title and the programme suggested, the characters in this play are "as tough as steel or as gentle and delicate as a magnolia flower" - and the cast in this particular production did not disappoint.

Congratulations should also be accorded to the front-of-house staff who were clearly working throughout to bring the entire performance experience together, and to the light and sound effects operators who were on-cue throughout.

The Director (David Brace) must really be congratulated firstly for his casting as all members displayed an affinity with their characters, giving the play a unique appeal; secondly for the set and stage effects. In all they made the play a great success. In conclusion, he is to be congratulated for an engaging and enjoyable production. And I enjoyed it immensely!

Peter Evans

Comments received so far:

We really were entertained. We laughed and cried and how you all remembered your lines I do not know! An evening we will remember!" Rachel

A very wordy play and we had a real laugh! An absolutely fabulous performance! You blew other society attempts out of the water !!" - Jonathan

Seen the film and could not imagine how it would be done on stage. Brilliant and Powerful. Had me in tears!" Sue

A terrific performance of not an easy play. And you all kept up the accent!! Bernard

Hope the next two performances go just as well, as better is not possible. Laura

An evening with wonderful entertainment and all emotions portrayed so beautifully. Clearly heard sniffles around me. - Pauleen

Was not sure it would be my kind of play but am so very glad I came as it was so impressive and memorable!" - Nigel

Great use of the stage with the set! Excellent. John

"I have just really enjoyed Steel Magnolias. Please pass my compliments to all involved. It was the best amateur dramatics I've ever seen." - Sue

Steel Magnolias was directed by David Brace