Clink Theatre’s Steel Magnolias: The Deep South comes to the Far North



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The local cast is busy rehearsing; Sandra Strickland Cruz, Maya Thiango Hassall, Narelle Spencer, Marilyn Davison, Judy Gittings, Jade Devlin. Image: Supplied.
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During the strange and stressful time that living through a pandemic has brought, family and close friends have never been more important.

So, a show that has at its core an examination of the close bonds that exist between a group of close friends going through a major personal upheaval - couldn’t be more timely.

Clink Theatre’s production of Steel Magnolias, which is on in late November, offers locals who enjoy live theatre a welcome chance to head back to the theatre and support this much-loved local theatre reopening in the Shire.

The concept of putting on a play under COVID-safe performing guidelines while difficult on some levels is actually the easiest of many challenges the play presents.

But a strong ensemble cast of six local women - Judy Gittings, Marilyn Davison, Narelle Spencer, Sandra Cruz, Jade Devlin and Maya Thiango Hassall - have met any challenge thrown their way with incredible energy, commitment and passion. They have worked hard to bring authenticity to southern accents, attitudes and views of the world, while also digging deep as actors to explore the complex relationships between this group of southern sometimes larger-than-life women.

In doing so they hope to deliver an often-funny but heart-wrenching story set in the world of Chinquapin County, and given most of the cast have lived the small-town experience - albeit a world away from the deep South - for much of their lives, some are already dear friends of many years, and the themes and issues explored in the play are universal, the play is more accessible than you might otherwise think.

Steel Magnolias is based on real events that the writer, Robert Harling, lived through, which he then wrote into a play that went on to have a thirteen-year run off Broadway. The success of the play led to the iconic film of the same name, which was cast with some of the biggest female names in Hollywood of the time - Olympia Dukakis, Sally Field, Shirley MacLaine, Dolly Parton - and two young up-and-coming actors in Daryl Hannah and Julia Roberts, who won her first big award (Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress in a motion picture) for her role.

And those who loved the film won’t be disappointed - the screenplay is very true to the original play, meaning Clink’s production contains many of the memorable funny lines and moments that will have audiences laughing out loud one moment and reaching for the tissues the next as the bigger drama of the play unfolds.

The play opens on the day Truvy Jones (Cruz) is taking on a new staff member, Annelle Dupuy (Devlin), at her home hair salon, which also happens to be the day of Shelby Eatenton’s wedding (Thiango Hassall). As with most Saturday mornings, Truvy’s ladies are all due at the salon, including Shelby’s mother, M’Lynn (Spencer) and local “royalty”, ex-mayor’s wife and recent widow Clairee Belcher (Davison). But all hell breaks loose when Shelby’s father decides he wants to strip his neighbour Ouiser Boudreaux’s (Gittings) magnolia tree of flowers and clear the birds from local trees so they don’t “leave their mark” on the wedding.

The two-act play then maps out a series of events after the wedding over several years and four different seasons - events that rock the small-town world of the six women and forever shape both who they are but more importantly reinforce the strong bonds of their friendships.

Previewing on November 25 and running until November 29, due to COVID-safe requirements, audience numbers in each performance are limited and all bookings must be made in groups of 6, 7 or 8.

So, reach out to your friends and family and come support Clink in its reopening and enjoy some good old Southern entertainment!

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