The Calendar Girls (review)

Three of the original Calendar Girls were the first to praise the courage of a group of amateur actresses who dared to bare all when they performed their eponymous play at The Court Theatre.

Monday, 1st April 2013, 6:23 pm
Calendar Girls
Calendar Girls

The trio, Angela Clarke, Beryl Bamforth and Chris Clancy came down from Yorkshire to be VIP guests at the Pendley theatre on Thursday night where the Tring Festival Company were in the middle of a smash-hit five day run of The Calendar Girls.

Amateur groups have only just won the right to stage Calendar Girls and in the last year nearly 1,000 am-drams around the country have persuaded their female actors to bare all on stage.

Last week audiences cheered and gave a standing ovation to Emma Russon, Liz Edlin, Jenny Giles, Maggie Harvey, Fiona Quilter-Wood and Naomi Glasser who took on the roles of the Calendar Girls, a group of plucky WI members who produced a nude calendar to help raise funds for their local hospital.

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Calendar Girls

It’s a tremendously uplifting story of laughter and heartbreak, made more poignant by having Angela Baker in the audience.

Her husband John died of leukaemia and it prompted her friends at the Rylstone WI, in Yorkshire, to try and raise a bit of cash for a new settee for the visitors’ room at the hospital. Such was the impact of their fund-raising that more than £3m has been raised for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research.

There’s been a world-wide smash hit play by Tim Firth and a major motion picture plus calendars ever year from the original girls.

Said Angela: “The actresses are so brave because they’re all amateurs and anything can go wrong. They could end up showing a lot more to the audience than they had bargained for!

“When we first did it we were terrified and we wondered who would buy the calendar. We were also concerned about what our friends and family might say.

“We sold an amazing 88,000 in the first year and another 250,000 in the USA.”

I’ve seen a lot of professional productions and the Tring Festival Company were up with the best.

Dan Clucas, as John, produced a spirited and heartfelt performance that couldn’t help but bring a lump to your throat while Mike Code, was a delight as the shy photographer, Lawrence, who was given the task of producing the calendar. He looked genuinely terrified.

But it was the WI ladies who deserved the greatest applause. They were, one and all, magnificent.

*The group’s male actors are taking their cue from the ladies, and performing The Full Monty later in the year but they still need two cast members. Have you got what it takes? Go to the Court Theatre website for details.

*Leighton Buzzard Drama Group is putting on its production of The Calendar Girls this summer.