Bravery laid bare for Calendar Girls at Abbey Theatre, St Albans

Calendar Girls

Calendar Girls - Credit: Archant

IT takes six brave women and an imaginative director to turn the stage version of Calendar Girls into a hit – and the Company of Ten has done just that.

For the play based on the calendar for which members of a small Yorkshire WI posed nude to raise funds in memory of the husband of one of their number has some obvious problems on stage.

Not least of those is that the Calendar Girls themselves do have to take their kit off – but it was all done in the best possible taste and hilarious at the same time.

In fact, the whole production is very funny and Andy Mills should take a lot of credit for that as well as his talented team of actors.

Calendar Girls is a very moving story and John Pyke as the husband of WI member Annie brings out all the pathos of the death of John from leukaemia. It is so easy to believe that all the women loved John enough to raise money in his name even if it means getting down to the bare essentials.


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The super sextet in question are Helen Miller as Cora – and she is the bravest of all in the nude scene to the delight of the audience – Kathryn Rogers as Chris, Rosemary Goodman as Jessie, Vanessa Gooseman as Celia, Tina Swain as Ruth and Katherine Barry as Annie.

They are a mixture of ages and sizes but all attack the roles with gusto. And the changes and development of the women as the calendar goes from success to success and their friendship becomes increasingly strained, are beautifully observed.

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Particularly moving is Ruth’s transformation from a buttoned-up acolyte of bossy WI leader Marie, another fine performance from Lesley Gordon, to an independent woman and Jessie’s scene where she bemoans how she is treated as the oldest member of the group.

One to watch in future productions is Lee Harris who was a hoot both as the nervous photographer who takes the pictures of the women and then as Liam who is supposed to film them advertising a washing powder. He sat so comfortably in both roles that there must be much more to come from him.

Calendar Girls played to a packed house on Friday and will probably continue to do so until the end of this run this Saturday (9). Catch it if you can because the amateur rights to produce the play are only available for a limited period and it may not come round again for many years.

Tickets can be obtained from the box office on 01727 857861 or go to www.abbeytheatre.org.uk

MADELEINE BURTON

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