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Calendar Girls

Published by: Steve Burbridge on 13th Sep 2012 | View all blogs by Steve Burbridge

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ION Productions at the Customs House, South Shields

There’s not a lot you can say about Calendar Girls that hasn’t already been said. The show, which tells the true story of twelve extraordinary members of the Women’s Institute who give their annual calendar a very untraditional twist to raise money for an extremely worthy cause, is now a global phenomenon. In 2003, it was made into a feature film starring Helen Mirren and Julie Walters and, having enjoyed a run in the West End and numerous national tours, the rights have been released to amateur and semi-professional groups for a limited period of eighteen months.

Not only does this inspirational stage production have the power to make audiences both laugh and cry, but it is also performed by a consummate ensemble cast.

Patricia Whale is Chris Harper, the ebullient driving force behind the calendar idea and her performance is engaging and energetic.

Audreyann Lee Myers provides the perfect contrast as Chris’s best friend, Annie Clarke, the bereaved woman whose husband’s death is the catalyst for the creation of the ‘alternative’ calendar and her portrayal is skilfully subtle. There is also an intensity to the scene where Chris and Annie have a confrontation and, subsequently fall-out, which was somewhat lacking in the film starring Mirren and Walters.

Angela Hannon relishes the role of the snooty chairman of the Knapley WI group and never misses an opportunity to steal a scene with a bitchy comment. She takes Marie’s pretentions to the verge of caricature but always retains the believability of the character.

Jo Smart also provides much hilarity with her portrayal of Jessie, the retired schoolteacher. Her ‘no front-bottoms’ line had the audiences in stitches and her delivery was punchy and spot-on throughout. Kay Miller is the unorthodox vicar’s daughter, Cora, and displays a rather impressive singing voice. Ashley Lamb plays Ruth, the most timid of all the women, whose philandering husband is playing away with a bimbo beautician (Carly Nelder). Laura Dollimore provides much of the glamour with the hair-tossing, golf-playing character of Celia.

In a cast that is dominated by such towering female talents, it would be easy – but extremely unfair – to overlook the contribution of the actors who perform less high-profile roles. Paul Dunn gives a heartfelt portrayal of John Clarke, who dies of leukaemia, Graeme Smith is effective in his doubling-up as photographer, Lawrence, and television director, Liam and Mark Lamb is a suitably downtrodden Rod Harper.

Finally, Carol Cooke plays both Brenda Hulse and Lady Cravenshire.

The entire production and technical team are to be commended too, particularly director Gareth Hunter and designer Chris Allen. Calendar Girls is a triumphant piece of theatre that should occupy a date in everyone’s diary.

 Runs until Saturday 15th September, 2012


1 Comment

  • Cameron Lowe
    by Cameron Lowe 5 years ago
    Thanks, Steve. I love these "laughing one minute, crying the next" shows! This sounds like a great production.
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