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Review | Steel Magnolias | The Lowry | 21/02/2023

Perhaps better known from the 1989 star studded movie, Steel Magnolias was first and foremost a play, having debuted in New York two years prior to the films release. Robert Harling mirrored his reality, with this comedy-drama a tribute to his sister and the supportive women who stood by her during devastatingly tough times. Steel Magnolias is currently breathing new life on a UK tour, including The Lowry where I caught it this week.

The play is set exclusively in Turvey’s hair salon. This could have forced the staging to be a little lacking, but this was certainly not the case here with Laura Hopkins’ pine-clad set design. It was like looking through a fish eye lens at the salon, with a striking neon outline around the edge. With nods to the films original Turvey (Dolly Parton), plastering the walls, the set has an unmistakable 80’s charm. Changes in time are cleverly denoted by slight changes in décor after brief blackouts. It is even cleverly reversed for Act 2, enabling the audience to visualise all four walls of the space. The costumes and wigs are also effortless 80’s and transport you to the era.

This show has a lot of heart and is both heart-warming and heart-breaking. The laugh out loud moments however are few, which affected the pacing, making the show feel longer than it was. It took a while to get into the first act, but once it got going it was pleasant and enjoyable. Act 2 was arguably the stronger part of the play with more emotion and sentiment.

The cast however are superb, personifying warmth and a true sense of community. Diana Vickers (Shelby) and Laura Main (M’Lynn) give a believable and relatable portrayal of mother and daughter, drawing the audience into their world. It is Main’s emotionally filled monologue that is by far the standout performance of the night. It would have been nice to have seen more of this grit, as well as more laugh out loud moments to help elevate the play.

Issues aside, Steel Magnolias still proves to be an enjoyable night at the theatre. Whilst it doesn’t pack a massive punch or arouse strong reaction, it is nice easy watching which is sometimes all you need!

'Steel Magnolias' is on at The Lowry until 25 February 2023 before continuing its UK tour. Full booking info below:

Photo Credit: Pamela Raith

Note: My ticket was gifted. Irrespective of whether a show is gifted or bought, I always ensure that my reviews are fair and based on my honest opinion alone.


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