Thursday, September 13, 2012

Calendar Girls -Review- Ion Productions, Customs House

Calendar Girls
Ion Productions
Customs House
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

Michael Hunter


  1. I am interested to know if you actually went to see this show. When exactly did Elaine do a nude scene? Sort of sets your other comments in context though.

  2. Of course I went to see the show (I even had a beer with most of them and the tech guys and gals afterwards), just made a mistake with the name and character, we are all human..!! but thanks for pointing it out, whilst I was checking I spotted another little error too, which again I have put right, so thank you x2

  3. I also went to see the show. I am however, puzzeled as to which show you saw as it seems to be very different in your appraisal as to that of mine. I saw a truly amature group attempting a show that was way beyond there capabilities.the momentum slowed with every scene and unfortunatly left me wondering why I had bought the tickets in the first place. I do admit that there were some lovely moments which did keep me going but they were well spread out throughout the entire show.

    The set was in principle a good concept, but not for this show as it detracted from any emotion and feeling that the cast were desperatley trying to create as it took far too long to change the scenes. The crew were visible throughout the show being seen through the far too large cracks/joins in the blocks. As for lighting was it a 40 watt bulb they used?

    On a positive note! Jessie was amazing and the only character that made the show worthwhile and in anyway "real"

    All in all; not impressed.

  4. Well beauty is in the eye of the beholder.. It would be a boring world if everybody's opinion was the same. Some of the stuff that you mentioned in a damning way I thought was canny. Sometimes people can over enthuse on the negative (I do it myself at times) and then not get the bigger picture; my recent Macbeth review for example, that was a headfuck on the night, but beautiful when all the pieces of headfuck were slotted together.
    Just saying like!!


  5. Got to say this is the first negative review I have seen of the show and I guess the old adage is true "everyone is entitled to their opinion". Many I have spoken to throughly enjoyed the performance as a whole! Of course we can all cast a critical eye over elements of staging perfomance etc. but I don't believe if you are truly looking to enjoy a perfomance you would actually allow such minor distractions to spoil that enjoyment. As a member of the supporting cast you could argue I am bias however I have only been with this team a short time as a stand in and I did read a review of the show today which suggested they enjoyed this "amateur" pefomance more than a professional production they had seen recently, so I guess for many who viewed this performance the show certainly wasn't beyond the actor's capabilities and viewed it in a much more positive light with glasses half full! Well done cast and crew!

  6. Hi Mark..
    Yeah I saw that review too, I see many professional performances that when done in an amateur 'style' are just as good or in fact because of the 9-5 working schedules of people/kids/family/lack of money are in fact better than the original.
    I saw the Pitmen Painters at Live theatre a couple of years ago, which was brilliantly professional, it was an amazing show spiritually and mentally. When People's Theatre got the licence to did it in an amateur was equally as good..I think (until I am told otherwise, it is soooo easy to say things when anonymous, so thank you Mark for being you..!!) I know who wrote the damning report, but will keep their anonymity (right word or spelling, I am not sure..??) for them to hide behind! (I will of course have a bit chin wag with you the next time I see you)
    Cheers Mark