Calendar Girls - The Play

Date 24th September 2022
Society Kingsbridge Amateur Theatrical Society
Venue Malborough Village Hall
Type of Production Play
Director Christine Bonner
Musical Director n/a
Choreographer n/a
Producer n/s
Written By Tim Firth

Report

Author: Iain Douglas

The musical version of this play is receiving much attention at present having been released to amateurs late last year. I have seen several productions of the musical, so it was a pleasure to re-visit the play version which I haven’t seen since the last national tour which was some time ago now.

Everyone knows the true story of Rylstone WI, who produced an alternative nude calendar, and have since raised millions for charity. It is a really engaging story of comradeships, determination, and love, born out of grief. It is stirring stuff and just shows what can be found in the wilds of the Yorkshire Dales. I know the area where the story is set very well indeed as my family lived only a few miles away. The play also explores women’s role in society, body image, and ageing so it is complex fodder with plenty for the actresses to get their teeth into.

I had forgotten how different the play is. In a nutshell, the climax of the musical is actually the interval point of the play, which then delves into the fallout from the success of the calendar during act 2, and the friction that ensues between some of the characters. There is much comic potential in the superb Tim Firth script which juxtaposes comedy alongside tears and sadness.

Obviously, the climax at the end of Act 1 is the staging of the nude photos for the Calendar and I must say a very big BRAVO to the Kats ladies. The settings were excellent and very daring for some of them. It isn’t easy to disrobe on stage. It was all very tasteful, but much loved by the full house audience, who supported the girls every inch of the way.

KATS production was well cast with some very engaging performances. Chrs was wonderful, whose brainchild the calendar is. She gave a very easy-going natural performance. The widowed Annie, her friend, was given a lovely contrasting character. Another stand out performance came from Celia, the ex-air hostess (with the mostess!). However, these three were given a run for their money by the other ladies who bared all for the calendar. Jessie, the feisty retired schoolteacher, the mousy Ruth who gets to show a fiery side when confronted with the girl who is seeing her husband, and  Cora, the vicar’s daughter. They all built a sense of community and comradeship which was lovely to watch.

Indeed, in rehearsal, actresses must build up that sense of togetherness as they prepare for the time when they first have to disrobe. As someone who has appeared twice in The Full Monty, I know what guts is required to disrobe on stage.

Marie, the WI chairman (with a past), who doesn’t quite “get” the Calendar, but in the end has to admit defeat. Also entertaining was Brenda Hulse, Lady Cravenshire and the annoying beautician.

The men are rather second fiddle to the achievements of the ladies, but they all gave excellent performances along with the extra ladies.

The production was beautifully directed by Christine, with a good feel for the comedy without going too over the top and a very good feel for the tender and sensitive aspects of the story.

As usual, the set was excellent. Simple but very effective and well lit.

I really enjoyed this production. If I had one little criticism it is that sometimes the “mechanics” of some of the performances were a little obvious so that on occasion the naturalness was lost. This is a minor criticism though as it cannot be denied that this was another triumph for KATS.