12 September 2012
I must admit prior to 2000 I was a bit of a film buff, liking nothing better than to spend my hard earned money on heading to the pictures, or renting a video/DVD. However since then I have lapsed a little, missing some of the great films that everybody seems to talk about in my circles. Calendar Girls the 2003 film is one of them. I even have the DVD collecting dust on my shelf, just not had the time to watch it.
So when Gareth Hunter (director) announced that this was going to be his next baby, I was thrilled to bits to come along and review something that others had seen on celluloid, raved about, and made all the good noises about.
With not seeing the film version I didn't really have any expectations of what would take place on the stage; in a good or a bad way.
Calendar Girls is the story of the Rylstone Womens Institute (WI) in the county of North Yorkshire. Coming together for various events and fates the nine women bond closely and hop in and out of each others personal lives.
Annie and her husband John Clarke, are going through a really tough time of it, this is due to Johns debilitating leukaemia battle, a battle that will cost him his life. During this battle the girls form a close knit friendship that brings about the main story on offer.
After John's death, Chris, Annie's close friend, comes up with an idea to raise money for the local Cancer ward, and fund a new sofa in the visitors wing. The only problem being is that the funding will come from a WI calendar, not the normal calendar that you would associate with the WI, but very much an 'alternative' one. A near naked, nude one. one that all of the girls will partake in and ruffle a few feathers along the way doing it.
I could not find any fault at all with what I saw on stage. The bonding of the girls was very believable, as was the little sub-story plots of the personal life issues of the characters. The great scenery, especially on John's Hill, added so much to the play that, I just wanted to run on stage and smell the flowers, so to speak!
All dialogue was presented in a fluid and in a professional manner, this needed to be the case as sometimes the Yorkshire accent needs a double take, listening wise anyway!
The story flowed between great comic scenes of the actresses modestly hiding their pride and joys behind fruit, flowers and lovely looking cupcakes, to the sadness that underlined the main story. The cast totally dealt with both in a marvellous way.
Audreyann Lee Myers playing Annie shone with her acting prowess tonight, the emotion ran through everybody in the crowd as she battled and coped with her husbands death. This is the first time that I have seen her perform, really pleased that she has returned to the stage so I can feast my eyes and ears upon her again.
Patricia Haws as Chris was superb as the feisty best friend, very credible acting, with a lot of flair, that again I want to see again and again.
Jo Smart playing Jessie was amazing, she chucked away her bus pass, her curlers and blew the house down with her funny one liners and skill on stage. In the baring of the bodies scene, she did actually flash a nipple, but she coped really well with it...I think she may have done it deliberately, just to show us how ballsy she is!
Ashley Lamb playing the demure Ruth, was equally ballsy, her on screen shyness was pushed out of the way by her flawless acting. Her nude scene was very tastefully done, best one of the night.
The men on stage Paul Dunn, playing John Clarke, Mark Lamb as Rod and Graeme Smith playing Lawrence/Liam added the opposite side of the sex spectrum to the stage, with solid performances.
I could ideally write about all on stage, all being as good as each other, but I am sure 1000 words would be too much of a review, so well done to those that I haven't
The staging as I mentioned was very good with set design coming from Chris Allen, lights and sound all very good coming from the in-house staff at The Customs House.
The costumes on display were a mixture of the own cast and great designs from Angela Donkin.
Gareth has again assembled a brilliant cast to portray a brilliantly funny and sad, all in one, play that had the crowd buzzing about it.
Well worth a looksee.
Calendar Girls is playing until Sat 16th Sept