Steel Magnolias - The Mayflower, Southampton

Cheri Lunghi and Denise Welch

Cheri Lunghi and Denise Welch

First published in Stage Reviews Daily Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Senior Feature Writer

ANYONE who didn’t have the foresight to pack their own hankies ahead of their trip to Steel Magnolias would be well advised to pick some up in The Mayflower foyer on their way in.

This play – from which the hit Julia Roberts and Sally Field movie was adapted – is known as a weepie with good reason.

The drama is set in Truvy’s (Denise Welch) beauty salon in Lousiana in the 1980s.

At first the conversations between the characters, a group of friends and a newcomer, Annelle – played by Kacey Ainsworth known as Little Mo in EastEnders – might sound like smalltown tittle-tattle.

But as the stories unfold the depth of feeling and connection develops and the potential for tragedy unfolds for Shelby (Sadie Pickering).

As the Southern Belle is preparing for her wedding day, we discover that she is diabetic and has been warned by her doctors that her body could not cope with her having children.

The play is very dialogue-focused, with a lot of the action being described by the characters as they chat in the salon rather than happening there.

But as it moves on more of the important events do take place in front of us and we become increasingly engaged in the stories as they unfold.

The cast were all strong. Particular mention should go to Isla Blair, who perfectly portrayed MlLynn’s mixed emotions as a mother who wanted her daughter to be happy but knew the one thing her daughter wanted could kill her.

Cheri Lunghi also had great stage presence as Clairee.

This play probably isn’t for everyone – if you like your entertainment fast-paced and get fidgety after five minutes, you might not love it.

But if you like stories that are full of love, friendship and warmth, book your tickets now.

Runs until June 9.

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