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Steel Magnolias

Dundee Rep
3 stars
In the corner of Dundee Rep’s upstairs bar, a nail emporium has opened 
up shop to buff up the digits of any passing ladies in need of 
sharpening their claws. Such an indulgence is the perfect pre-cursor to 
Robert Harling’s so feel-good it hurts 1980s play set in blonde 
bombshell Truvee Jones’ shocking pink beauty parlour in America’s Deep 
South.

Not that Harling’s best-known work following its adaptation into a hit 
big-screen tear-jerker starring Julia Roberts and Dolly Parton comes 
out fighting in any way in Jemima Levick’s faithful, funny and at 
moments quietly moving production. Quite the opposite, in fact, in what 
at one time might have been referred to as ‘a woman’s play’.

 from Ouiser’s back-woods coarseness to Clairee’s stateswoman-like 
demeanour and all points in-between, the pan-generational sorority that 
flit around Truvee’s place find comfort from each other beyond the 
hair-do’s and healing treatments they’re ostensibly there for. Central 
to this is golden girl Shelby’s health issues, watched over by her 
mother M’Lynn and prayed for by trainee stylist Annelle.

This, then, is how the pre Sex and the City generation lived in an 
unashamedly sentimental if curiously libido-free affair that is an 
otherwise fully-rounded portrait of blue-collar sisterhood that goes 
beyond its gaudy girls-night-out trappings.

As Shelby, Natalie Wallace never overplays her doe-eyed charm, while 
there’s a worn-out pathos to Irene McDougall’s M’Lynn that’s undercut 
by some well-timed comic sparring.

At over two and a half hours, all this may be more mini-series than 
movie. While at times the play’s crafted sturdiness is itself is in 
need of a make-over, Harling’s touching confection remains more than 
skin deep.

The Herald, February 28th 2012

ends


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