1993 - Steel Magnolias

 Steel Magnolias


Thursday 19th May 1993

Friday 20th May 1993

Saturday 21st May 1993


Produced and Directed by

Richard Garland  


Review from the Maidenhead Advertiser - 28th Mat 1993 - Susan Joshua


Merchandising, they call it in the entertainment business. You know, go to the rock concert and buy the T-shirt, CD, poster, etc.


And if Bourne End's Forum Players were in the business of making serious money, they'd have had a stall selling boxes of Kleenex at the entrance to the Community Centre in Wakeman Road.

For I know I wasn't the only one surreptitiously dabbing at the corner of my eye in the final scene of last week's memorable performance of Steel Magnolias. (Mutterings of Hay Fever didn't fool me - the pollen isn't that high at 10.20pm!)


It's difficult to know where to begin praising their production of Robert Harling's play, which was made into a film starring Shirley MacLaine, Dolly Parton, Julia Roberts, Sally Field, Daryl Hannah and Olympia Dukakis.


The first thing that struck me as the curtain rose was the authentic looking set. The play is set in a hairdressers in Louisiana - or as they call them in those parts, a Beauty Salon. Everything was there and in working order, from water through a spray in the back wash basins, to hair-dryers, tongs, swivel chairs and hair style posters on the walls.


Then, as soon as the first woman spoke, not only the confidence that came through, but the accurate American accent - sustained by all six throughout the performance.


For me one of the most interesting roles was that of Annelle, played by Lesley Clark, who developed like a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis. In the first scene she was a timid, mouse like with a body language that said "Please let me be." As the scenes progressed, and her domestic situation and religious conviction changed, she grew in stature and confidence, taking her place in the community of the salon and the wider world.


This play celebrates the strength of women, the strength that comes from conquering adversity, and among the many witty one-liners I was waiting to hear one of my favourite expressions from the US: "Women are like tea bags: you don't know how strong they are until they're in hot water."

Pivotal to the whole action was salon owner Truvy, played with pace and panache by Brenda Phelps. The strength the women drew from each other came in a large part from the atmosphere she created in her salon and Brenda struck exactly the right note.


Playing mother and daughter in the play were real life mother and daughter Wendy Keeble and Sami Deacon. Knowing their real life relationship added an extra edge to their powerful performances.


The personality development of most of the characters over the two and a half years of the play's action was one of its fascinating aspects. Changes were lest dramatic for the two older women salon clients, played by Janet Smith and Angela Telfer, but they portrayed those changes subtly and skilfully.


My only regret is that this fine performance, directed by Richard Garland, was seen by so few people. I only hope the 33 of us who saw the performance on Thursday last week made our applause as loud as the excellent cast deserved.

Copyright - Forum Players