The story of how a Women’s Institute used alternative efforts to raise money for their local hospital. Tim Firth’s award winning production continues its final tour with a stop off in Yorkshire, the heart of the story, at Leeds Grand Theatre.
When: Monday 26th – Saturday 31st March
Where: Leeds Grand Theatre
How Much: £7.50 – £29.50
Cast: Lynda Bellingham, Jan Harvey, Joe McGann, John Labonowski, Sue Holderness, Ruth Madoc, Deena Payne, Lisa Riley, June Watson, Camilla Dalerup, Kevin Sacre, Jane Lambert
The theatrical interpretation of this inspirational local story focuses greatly on the close knit community of the WI and infectious Northern humour. The sudden death of Annie’s husband John to Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma spurred the women of Knapley WI to pose nude to raise money for a new sofa for the relative’s room in the Cancer wing of Skipton Hospital. John had held the view that the WI meetings were not all about baking and gardening, quite the contrary – he viewed the meetings as a chance to gather with friends and cause some mischief.
Chris- Annie’s best friend – portrayed the cheekier side of the WI perfectly; she shunned the WI’s ‘Churches of Wharfedale’ theme for the charity calendar and encouraged the other women to participate in this alternative calendar on behalf of John.
No front bottoms!
exclaimed Jessie as she agreed, this had the whole audience in laughter and applaud. John had left behind a speech for the WI which started like this,
The flowers of Yorkshire are like the women of Yorkshire, every stage of their growth is more beautiful than the last. But the last phase is always the most glorious.
The process for these women was not an easy one, with disapproval coming from various angles; from disgruntled committee members to unforgiving husbands. They had to give a speech to the WI committee explaining their reasoning for the calendar, which proved to be successful as they were told,
We don’t do nudity. But we do, do charity.
The women stuck together with John’s memory always in their heart, to date the original calendar girls have raised £3 million, extraordinary!
Calendar Girls is an amazing production in every way, the story is a beautiful encounter of friendship and support when times are hard, and the cast portray this element beautifully. Jack Ryder, director of the production, highlights the different personalities of each woman perfectly throughout and in particular on the nude scenes; each revelation is executed hilariously and yet with dignity and beauty.
Lynda Bellingham, as Chris, exudes charm and captures the closeness and sensitivity of the story perfectly; the friendship between herself and Annie (played by Jan Harvey) is played so well you could believe every scene they were in. Overall a great cast, who truly portray the essence of this story and can sway the audience from tears to laughter as they please. This production holds many sensitive issues such as grief and nudity and all are executed with greatest respect, a must see!
Score: 5/5 Roses