Steel Magnolias ***
Set in Truvy's beauty salon, the play follows the fortunes of six women through their gossip and chat as they meet on Saturday mornings over a few years.
Three of the group are Truvy's regulars, older women whose cantankerous natures, gossip and long memories create a gentle rumble of background humour – with occasional lighting flashes of side-splitting comedy.
Patricia MacLeod is Clairee, widow of the town's late mayor, whose recent loss has not hindered her willingness to live a little. Kate Potter plays Ouiser, a curmudgeonly old woman with a bit of a past, and Carol Jeffreys is her somewhat long-suffering neighbour, M'Lynn.
Rosie Haswell provides a solid sense of continuity as Truvy, without being too over the top, while Jane McGuinness puts in an excellent performance as her assistant Annelle. New to the job, it is Annelle's changing outlook on life that creates the appearance of time passing.
While McGuinness does much to ensure her character builds and changes, from being a frightened outsider to finding God and getting married, the other four need to be more relaxed if they are to create the cosy intimacy of true friends.
Without this feeling of mundane life the potential drama of the piece can never be achieved. This drama centres on the sixth woman, M'Lynn's daughter Shelby – a solidly convincing Lynsey Crawford – who is diabetic. She is allowed to enter the inner sanctum in the opening scene as it is her wedding day.
What they do create is a real sense of the way friends can rely on each other and get through bad times with humour. But, despite dynamic direction from Phyllis Rose it all feels a bit forced.
A fair reading of a great play that would be all the better if the company were able to relax and let it flow more.
Edinburgh Evening News Monday 19th May 2008