The theatre scene will change markedly in Adelaide over the next couple of years. The century-old Her Majesty’s Theatre will close in April for about 20 months and, while the Festival Theatre is open again, the work at the Adelaide Festival Plaza will continue over the next few months. We’re told that “since 2014 South Australians have missed seeing at least seven major musicals because of the lack of a suitably sized venue and availability.” The current seating at Her Majesty’s is for 970 and, when finished, it will increase to around 1,500. So, until all this work is finished, we will be even more grateful than we are already for the smaller theatres to see us through.
The Bakehouse Theatre certainly falls into the category of “small”. It’s at the quieter end of Angas Street and houses two little theatres, the main one seating 87 and the Studio Theatre, just 40. It has its own resident group called the Unseen Theatre Company but survives mostly on renting out to Australian and overseas groups.
Such a one is Ipskip Productions whose Steel Magnolias has just had a successful season there. They are to be sincerely congratulated on bringing this gently humorous piece about how we deal with change and challenge to life. The whole play takes place in Truvy’s Beauty Shop and involves six oddly-named women whose lives unravel for us in two acts. The action takes place in Chinquapin, Louisiana in America and the maintenance of the southern American accent was a challenge the women met with aplomb. The stage crew, with Hannah Tulip as Stage Manager, provided a good set and sound and lighting were spot on – oops, a pun. Taking on both roles as Director/Producer, Nathan Quadrio, has done a very good job in keeping this tight-knit little community of women and their problems of intense interest to the audience. This particular group of Adelaide women are experienced performers and their talent and quality comes through this show.
Any woman who has her hair done regularly would recognise in Truvy, the sort of friendly warm hairdresser, (beautifully portrayed by Lisa Simonetti ) to whom their customers chat comfortably and become friends, more than clients. We first meet Annelle (Georgia Broomhall), as a nervous young woman just out of her apprenticeship looking for a job and watch her blossom into a woman with a mind of her own and she does it well. Julie Quick as Clairee, the posh, wealthy and elegant and once the town’s first lady, measures up in humour and kindness with the also wealthy but brash and down-to-earth Ouiser (Rose Vallen), both convincing and immensely likeable. Cate Rogers plays M’Lynn, mother of Shelby (Casmira Hambledon), the main focus of the play. Both convey the love and occasional friction between mother and daughter very well with convincing performances. If you listen to an audience occasionally, you can gauge how they are feeling. Sometimes their deep understanding, in this case of the dilemma of a mother who just wants her child to be safe and a daughter whose needs are different, reflected in the closing scene in absolute quiet. It’s what you don’t hear that matters. No rustling, no coughing – nothing but the sound of silence as people wait with baited breath. That’s how it was.
Ipskip Productions presents
by Robert Harling
Director Nathan Quadrio
Venue: Bakehouse Theatre | 255 Angas Street, Adelaide SA
Dates: 10 – 13 Jan 2018