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Friday, November 14, 2008

"Steel Magnolias" a triumph for the Ridgeway Theatre Company

If your perceptions of amateur dramatics are mistimed sound effects, petrified actors forgetting their words and poor comedic timing, then they will be shattered by the very slick and professional production of Robert Harling's Steel Magnolias from the Ridgeway Theatre Group.

Set in a Louisiana beauty salon, this is a challenging script, calling as it does for humour and sadness delivered by a small all-female cast. In the 1989 film, the cast included Dolly Parton, Julia Roberts, Daryl Hannah and Shirley MacLaine. But the Chiseldon cast was more than a match for the big budget movie with each character brought vividly to life in the capable hands of Wendy Pompe, Charlotte Mannion, Kim Waites, Angie MacNaught, Lynda Farrington and Vicki Brown.

The venue could also have been challenging - the pretty church of Holy Cross in Chiseldon, Wilts - but it delivered superb acoustics and the quality of the entertainment on stage was more than enough to offset any discomfort caused by sitting on pews for two hours.

There were sound effects a-plenty in the first act with the sounds of gun shots and telephones but no mistiming. All the period details in the play, which dates from the mid 80's, were carefully observed in trhe costumes and props.

Miraculously the cast managed to largely retain their southern US accents - quite a challenge - and Wendy Pompe as Truvy, the Dolly Parton character in the film, was particularly adept, imbuing her sympathetic character with warmth and radiance. Wendy's hairdressing talent has largely gone unnoticed before now but a career in perming and colouring awaits this talented thespian.

Steel Magnolias by the Ridgeway Theatre Company is showing at Holy Cross Church, Chiseldon, until Saturday 15 November

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