WELCOME to Louisiana in the spring of 1985, that’s the welcome from Blackout Productions, who bring their production of Robert Harling’s Steel Magnolias to Edinburgh Academy this week.
Based on the writer’s real-life experience of the death of his sister, Susan Harling Robinson, in 1985 due to complications from Type 1 diabetes, beneath all the Eighties’ fashions, southern accents and big hair, Steel Magnolias is a story that celebrates friendships that last a lifetime as well as capturing those rare moments in life when people feel comfortable enough to drop the masks we all wear daily.
Made into film starring Julia Roberts, Sally Field, Dolly Parton, Shirley MacLaine, Daryl Hannah and Olympia Dukakis in 1989, the play charts the lives of six women who meet every Saturday morning in their local hair and beauty salon.
There’s the wise and kind Truvy, the smart-mouthed Ouiser and the optimistic and passionate Shelby, all instantly recognisable characters they could be anyone’s mother, sister, daughter, aunt, niece, grand-daughter or best friend.
Each has their own quiet strength but are as delicate as the magnolia flower while being as tough as steel.
The play covers three years in the life of the friends during which time Shelby, who is diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes decides to have a child, despite the complication that could result from her condition.
Along the way it charts Clairee’s friendship with the curmudgeon Ouiser and Annelle’s transformation from a shy newcomer to good-time girl and finally born-again Christian.
Blackout Productions’ Carole Gibson says, “This play resonates with truths about who we are as people, and about how we rely on the connections we make with people in our lives: connections that mould us and change us and ultimately define us.
“These are the moments we allow people to see our innermost selves.
“Most importantly, Steel Magnolias reminds us of the healing power of laughter in the face of sorrow and the ability to see light even when we are at our most wilted and delicate.”
Steel Magnolias premiered off-Broadway at the WPA Theatre, in New York City, on 28 March, 1987 and received its Broadway debut in 2005.
Julia McKenzie directed the UK premiere on the West End in 1989.
Steel Magnolias, Magnusson Centre, Edinburgh Academy, Henderson Row, tonight, 7.30pm, Saturday, 2.30pm, £12, www.ticketsource.co.uk/steel-magnolias