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