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the Amateur Group Reviews... REVIEWS
WARMINSTER - Calendar Girls
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The Athenaeum Keeps Abreast of Things
With the performing rights of Calendar Girls still available to fund charities, P&R Productions took the opportunity to make their presentation of this family acclaimed play.
Time, however was limited but a wealth of talent was not, writes Pat Jones. This made the production the success it was and brought pleasure to its audience.
Seamlessly flowing dialogue, laced with sharp wit and sensitivity, was well delivered by an accomplished cast showing empathy with each of the characters they played.
The scenery and backdrop of the hills above Knapeley village enhanced perfectly the atmosphere of the play. Credit must go to all who were involved and whose collaboration did so much to make the production the success it undoubtedly was.
Its quality was delightful and gently erotic but in the best possible way. Congratulations to the production team on their creation which came from the wonderful ideas of Jim Read and Andrea Pearce.
As one of the audience was heard to remark on leaving, who needs to go to London?’ Calendar Girls was a really commendable venture.
Warminster Journal - January 2014
Letters to the paper….
Well done to the P&R production team; director Caroline Fielding and the cast for a most courageous and ambitious production of Calendar Girls at the Athenaeum last week.
The cast worked brilliantly together and for some of this was their first experience on stage. The girls kept their dignity at all times whilst appearing nude, managing to keep all vital parts discreetly hidden and their Yorkshire accents intact. This was a very polished performance indeed and executed with great enthusiasm, energy and skill.
This well known and moving story was delivered with both humour and sensitivity and deservedly received a standing ovation and the end of its gala performance on Saturday.
Dorothy House must be proud to have been associated with this charming production of Calendar girls, and with the addition of a calendar on sale all monies raised will go to this worthy charity – Dorothy House Hospice Care.
WRITTLE - Calendar Girls
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Tim Firth's play of 2008 – and the calendar of 2000 – have returned to their charitable, community roots, with over 500 amateur groups fighting for a chance to perform it, raising money for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research and aiming for the Guinness Book of Records.
It's an inspiring story, shot through with sentimentality and Yorkshire humour. Laura Bennett's sell-out production at Writtle has a top-notch cast, not only the six poseuses, but the beautician, WI officials and guests, plus of course the men – Neil Smith hilarious as the shy snapper, Daniel Curley very moving as the husband whose death sets the whole scheme in motion.
Leafing through the months, we see some of the best, and the bravest, actresses of a certain age for miles around. Paulette Harris outstanding as the forthright florist, Michele Moody as the boozy refugee from the golf club, Barbara Llewellyn as the Brodiesque retired teacher, Sharon Goodwin, the determined widow, Beth Crozier as the musical single mum and Liz Curley as the reluctant Ruth. Not forgetting Jean Speller as the gloriously snobbish branch chairman.
They're a cheeky bunch, naughtily subverting the jam and Jerusalem image with their giggly banter. And Firth's script provides one-liners and set-pieces for everyone.
This thoroughly enjoyable staging is spare and simple – the Dales on a sliding screen – with effectively stylised solutions to the death of John, the showers of fan mail, the sunflowers.
Typically for Writtle, there are sunflowers everywhere, a fund-raising stall for that original Calendar Girls charity, Victoria Sponge [not M&S] and Knapely Knee-trembler in the interval, the real W.I. in attendance. The all-important photo-shoot props include preserves from, where else, Wilkin’s .
And yes, dear reader, I bought the calendar, [pictures by ParryHide Photography] which I'm pleased to see features many other company members to make up the eighteen months ...
DEREHAM - Calendar Girls
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Calendar Girls has become a true British institution since the inspiring true story became a box office smash hit and the fastest selling play in British theatre history.
Dereham Theatre Company’s girls threw themselves into the stage production with great enthusiasm, energy and bravery. It’s not the easiest thing to do to take your kit off in your own town with lots of your friends watching.
They clearly loved the experience of performing the show and also becoming local celebrities through their own alternative version of the calendar.
It was great to see a really healthy audience for the opening night - and local support continued for the rest of the week.
The Dereham Calendar Girls special calendar
Director David Rees lost his sister to leukaeumia when she was 22 and so the story line has been very poignant for him.
Under his direction the cast ensured the very funny parts of the show were accentuated, the pathos was brought to the fore and the power of the strained friendships was strongly portrayed.
Enough flesh was on display to do justice to the very basis of the play, while the modesty of the cheeky girls was maintained (just!).
Calendar Girls left the audience not knowing whether to laugh more or cry more and there are lots of memorable lines such as “Lawrence - we need considerably bigger buns!” and “one lump or two?” as one of the naked ladies came from behind the hatch with just a large teapot and cup.
It’s a great play by a great cast and raising valuable money for worthy causes.
I don’t normally give everyone a name check in reviews - but on this occasion they really deserve it! So here goes: Samantha Elmhurst (Cora), Jane Mack (Chris), Karen Bates (Annie), Colleen Harris (Jessie), Julie Hewitt (Celia), Marilyn Cara (Ruth), Zelda Rolfe (Marie), Sonia Sandell (Brenda Hulse), Ian Sandell (John), Tony Wilds (Rod), Ruth Hannent (Lady Cravenshire), Russell Baylin (Lawrence), Hannah Rolfe (Elaine) and Mark Wells (Liam).
CATERHAM - Calendar Girls
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Seeds sown by the original Calendar Girls which then turned into the 2003 comedy film have now blossomed into a cracking stage play written with empathy and humour by Tim Firth.
The members of the Knapeley WI in Yorkshire take up the challenge of publishing a tastefully nude calendar to raise money in memory of John who died from Leukaemia.
Superbly cast, the Miller Centre set was ingenious with its church hall interior giving way to the Yorkshire Dales. It is Annie who lost husband John with Sally Bosman depicting strong emotions alongside humour. Anne Page plays Chris, her great friend and the calendar organiser, Linda Harris was vicarage bred and happy to rebel, Nikki Packham is ex-schoolmarm Jessie who shocks the calendar's photographer whom she used to teach. Celia - golf club member and up for shocking - shone in Cas Frost's interpretation and Jackie Cast alternated timidity with effective comedy as Ruth.
In her role as President of their WI, Christine Bower's Marie was unbending and businesslike and amongst the smaller roles, Steve Boxall gave John commendable fortitude and humour. Ably contrasting the impressionable young photographer and the brash advertising executive, Kieran McGough made his mark and Andy Wiggins contrasted affection with command as Chris' husband Rod. The cameo roles of Brenda the WI speaker, Elaine the beautician and Lady Cravenshire were all in excellent hands. More stars are awarded for the music - both played and sung.
Directed superbly by Barbara Beckett, the Miller Centre cast created their own calendar to raise yet more money - over and above their ticket sell-out - while helping to break into the Guinness World Records for the most productions of one play in one calendar year. Uplifting all round.
Theo Spring - Surrey Mirror
NEWARK - Calendar Girls
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There can be few people who have not heard of the Calendar Girls’ story — the Yorkshire WI members who bared almost all for a charity calendar.
The story caught the imagination of everyone who heard it, largely because they were just a bunch of ordinary women doing something out of their comfort zone for a good cause.
And so it was with Argent Theatre’s production at the Grove School’s Lilley and Stone site, Newark. It was a wonderful, uplifting production, largely because they were just a bunch of ordinary women doing something out of their comfort zone. It takes nerve to bare all (well, bits at least) on home territory.
The licence has only recently been granted for amateur companies to perform the play and, if the Argent one is anything to go by, the hundreds of productions performed round the country should be spreading smiles as big as a sunflower everywhere they go.
The action takes place in and around Knapeley Village Hall. They are all different characters, and belong to the WI for different reasons, but they unite in the common cause of raising money in memory of one member’s husband.
Val Wilson plays Annie, whose husband John dies of leukaemia during the play. The role could easily be nothing more than a tear-jerker, but Val made it empowering, showing the strength love can give, putting grief to positive use.
The driving force behind the calendar is Chris (Chantelle Thornley). She is forced to confront her reasons for seeking publicity — is it really to raise more money for charity, or to fulfil her stifled need for fame? Chantelle succeeded in making the audience warm to the character, despite her mixed motives.
Yvonne Cockayne was surprisingly and endearingly unstuffy as retired schoolteacher Jessie, Rebecca Smith was master of the one-liner as the leather-clad single mum Cora, Mary Timms (Celia) was a refreshingly down-to-earth trophy wife, and Dawn Bond raised more laughs than anyone as innocent and anxious-to-please Ruth, who finally blew her top when she came face-to-face with her husband’s dim floosie, nicely played by Rebecca Dodd.
Sally Williams was pitch-perfect as the social-climbing WI president Marie, and Lindsay Follen did sterling double duty as the dull speaker and the condescending Lady Cravenshire. David Anderton as Chris’s husband Rod, struggling to keep their business going, provided the girls with a reality check.
Justin Day was a joy as the tongue-tied photographer Lawrence, trying to reconcile the demands of his art with seeing his former teacher in the nude. His embarrassment was excruciatingly delightful. Alistair Dobb had a tricky role as the focus of all the fundraising, the dying John. He handled it with both humour and sensitivity.
The play, with all its fun, is dealing with a deeply sensitive subject — cancer. This is never forgotten and the moment when the girls caught and read letters falling from the sky, from people who had experienced it first-hand, was deeply moving. Yes, I did have tears in my eyes.
I saw Calendar Girls performed professionally at the Theatre Royal, Nottingham, two years ago. I have to say I enjoyed this version more, being performed by amateurs seemed more appropriate.
Directed well by John Dodd, there was a natural warmth and cohesiveness, showing how closely the team had worked together.
The original Calendar Girls would certainly have approved, with this play raising money for Beaumond House Community Hospice, Newark
Julia Jones - Newark Advertiser
DONCASTER - Calendar Girls
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IF you go down to a local theatre anywhere in the country over the next few months, you certainly will be in for a big surprise.
Wherever you go at the moment, it seems you can’t move for women of a certain age getting their kit off and baring all on stage.
But don’t worry - the nation hasn’t been overcome by an addiction to striptease, its all good, honest clean fun in the shape of countless stage productions of the smash hit Calendar Girls.
The rights to the heartwarming tale about a group of Women’s Institute women who go nude for a charity calendar have been released to amateur theatre groups for 18 months - and supposedly more than 500 groups across the country are set to tackle the production in the weeks ahead, setting a new world record for the most number of performances of a play.
If you don’t know the Calendar Girls story, you must have been living in a cave for the last decade. The play is based on the true story of members of Rylstone WI in North Yorkshire who, wanting to remember the husand of one of the group after losing his battle against cancer, dare to bare in a fundraising calendar with only teacups and buns and other mumsy WI props to protect their modesty.
The calendar became an unexpected smash hit across the globe, with news crews, television and reporters and photographers descending on the girls for their stories. The story was even turned into a Hollywood smash starring Helen Mirren and Julie Walters.
Now local ladies from Penzance to Inverness are daring to bare - with more flesh on show than Prince Harry’s photo album.
Ice Productions are among the first to bring it to the Doncaster stage - and there were plenty of of bums on seats (although not bare ones!) at its run at the Civic.
For husbands, sons, daughters, friends, relatives, colleagues will be seeing the ladyfolk in their lives in a whole new light - and getting a cheeky glimpse of bits of them they probably never knew existed!
Leader of the pack Chris (Trish Lampard) shone as the strong-willed driving force in a story that carefully balances moments of comic farce alongside beautifully scripted tear-jerking scenes that had some of the audience sniffing into their tissues.
But the largely female crowd were whooping with raucous delight at the show-stopping antics of dowdy Ruth (Armthorpe Shaw Wood Primary School teaching assistant Lynne Piper) and Karen Powell who delivered, a well, let’s say a cheeky performance as ballsy Cora.
Kerry Shillam sparkled as “bigger buns” Celia with Andrea Lomas (Jessie) and Annie (Wendy Hernon) also receiving extra loud cheers for whipping off their bras on stage.
One wonders if the the prop vodka bottle the cast swig from in one particular scene actually had a drop of the real hard stuff in to give them a drop of dutch courage!
But its not all girls, girls, girls. Richard Caile delivered a sterling performance as John, whose death breathed new life into the women and WI - delicately delivering touches of humour against some moving scenes.
And its not all about being nude (never naked) either. Some of the best performances came from Lampard and Hernon in tense moments as friendships are put to the test as the success of the calendar spirals out of control.
Needless to say, its one of those shows where the audience knows what’s coming - and its rare to see real gasps of shock and amazement on the theatre stage, but that’s exactly what the Civic got as the roof lifted off - along with the clothes.
This is a truly heart-warming comic tale that forms the ideal round-off to a great British summer. And you’ll never look at cream buns in the same light ever again!
Darren Burke – Thorne & District Gazette
SHERINGHAM - Calendar Girls
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The story of the Calendar Girls is winner on so many levels - from the titillation of its signature “reveal” scene to its heart warming plot of empowerment of women against personal tragedy and stuffy traditionalism.
Taking on such a project, as well as taking off your clothes, is a brave venture for an am dram group, whose audience is likely to have seen the story on the big screen or bigger stage.
But the Cromer and Sheringham Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society’s version rises to the challenge.
A strong cast’s comic timing and emotional empathy provide the light and shade of a play with double tissue power for wiping away alternating tears of laughter and sadness.
Amanda Howell and Chrissie Robertson lead the way as Annie and Chris the widow and driving force behind the calendar whose friendship is strengthened then tested by their rise to fame.
But they are backed up by fellow rebels glamourous trophy wife Celia (Kate Leggett), retired teacher Jessie (Mary Cubitt) church organist Cora (Brenda Binns) mousy Ruth (Joanna Ryan) and snobby WI chairman Marie (Ruth Elliott).
Director Martin Howard and his stage team also ensured the slick photo shoot scene promoted the fun of the moment and protected modesty.
Among the cameo parts Andrew Payne plays the dying John with a mix of compassion and comedy that sums up the play’s recipe for success which would win first prize at any WI competition.
Edp24 – Richard Batson