Coleraine High School recently staged an adaptation of Robert Harling’s ‘Steel Magnolias’.
This was a truly stunning performance. From the moment the lights (so skilfully managed and manipulated by the always calm and collected Derek Simpson) were lifted on Gavin Hutchinson’s wonderfully vivid and vibrant set design of Truvy’s beauty shop – the day-glow pink walls, the steps of sliced Battenberg – the audience knew they were in for a treat.
When Nikki Barr totted on, audiences were captivated: these ladies were truly exceptional and not only transported the audience back in time thirty years but, through their flawless accents, straight across the Atlantic Ocean to Chinquapin, Louisiana.
Nikki Barr’s portrayal of Truvy was the beating heart of the play. The audience was instantly immersed in the nervous energy and comical honesty of Jess McGivern’s Annelle, whose exuberant reactions and naïve bundle of blunders kept them laughing throughout.
Then there was Ruth Carson’s eccentric millionaire and Chinquapin matriarch, Miss Clairee; the fact that Ruth portrayed a widow of nearly forty years her senior with such faultless skill and confidence was astounding; she was wise, wicked and witty.
Then there appeared Ouiser. The young lady who played this cantankerous curmudgeon – Katie McNeill – was the youngest of the ensemble but she was every bit as professional as the rest.
She was astonishing in her role as Ouiser, perfectly channelling the bombastic, cynical but ultimately loyal Ouiser with grace and confidence; this character could easily be dismissed as an aggressive grump but Katie made her human.
The central pairing of the play – mother and daughter, M’Lynn and Shelby – brought to life by Rebecca Meenagh and Anna Warke, respectively. These two were dazzling.
Of course none of this could have been achieved without the wonderful direction and stewardship of Cathy Davidson; Mrs Davidson puts weeks of her life into nurturing these stunning performances, her commitment and dedication matched only by her love of drama which shines out through these young ladies on stage.
This year she was ably assisted by Adam Goudy who also made an important contribution as the only male voice on stage - the K.P.P.D radio DJ. This direction was supported by a team of devoted volunteers: Mr Raymond Millar brought Mr Gavin Hutchinson’s design to life, constructing an interactive and realistic set; this was further enhanced by the wonderful properties team, led by the inventive and creative Miss Lynsey Stewart; the trip back in time was fully achieved by the costumes and make-up so expertly and faithfully recreated by the stylish eye of Miss Linda Knox, assisted by Rebekah Phillips and team; the sound was masterfully controlled by Mr D. Walker and Mr D. Cumberland, who mixed the dialogue and soundtrack with great precision; and finally all those other wonderfully enthusiastic individuals, marshalled by the faithful hand of Mr Semple, who ran the refreshments, sold the
programmes, ushered people to their seats and helped to ensure that this was another fantastic Coleraine High School event.
These young ladies reminded everyone lucky enough to be sat in Coleraine High School that night; they taught us all an invaluable lesson, echoing the very sentiment of the play itself in the manner in which they came together and delivered a performance of such skill and talent: never underestimate the strength, the determination and the fortitude of friendship.