Steel sextet take Centre Stage in a blooming triumph

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Steel Magnolias - Lowther Pavilion

Centre Stage’s choice of Robert Harling’s 1987 play, set entirely in a Louisiana hair salon, for their second production is bold and challenging.

The female cast of six sustain their southern drawl admirably, led by Felicity Morgan as Shelby, a diabetic who becomes pregnant against medical advice. Her argumentative relationship with her mother M’lynn – Rosie Withers on fine form here – is the essence of the play.

Sue Houston, Gemma Bradley, Barbara Kenny and Claire Gaskill, all produce accomplished performances as contrasting and amusing women, though sometimes the writing labours, concentrating on the second hand tittle-tattle of the salon, and the female angle, too much.

Director Lynda Clarkson lets the play’s strong finale speak for itself as Rosie Withers quietens an attentive audience with her extended soliloquy of pain and hurt. Harling’s suggestion that support and friendship can get these Steel Magnolias through any personal crisis may be a simple one, but his well-drawn characters capture the idea effectively.

JULIAN WILDE