Calendar Girls

by Tim Firth; dir Stephen Boden
Priory Theatre, Kenilworth
1 – 15 September 2012

The story of Calendar Girls is widely known, based on the true story of WI members who posed naked for a calendar to raise money for a settee for the hospital visitors’ lounge. Demand for the calendar snowballed and it became a huge fund raiser for Leukaemia Research. The Priory are one of the first amateur companies to stage the play, and had the additional coup on their opening Gala night of welcoming Angela Baker, one of the original calendar girls featured in the play.

The theatre was buzzing with goodwill and the play got off to a cracking start with good pace and enthusiasm. The set was well done with a revolving stage for the transition to outside and all changes were smooth and well rehearsed.

Characters were well played and the end of the first act was raucously received and  deservedly so. No nudity was apparent but there was enough to know that the Director had done his job well in concealing any potential embarrassment. I assume every angle had been checked! Special mention goes to Susi Walker as Jessie who delivered some wonderful lines with great comic timing and received a round of applause for her ‘nude ‘photo.

On the downside, some of the casting was a little awry. Cora (Esther Dunn with a fabulous singing voice) appeared much too young to believably play a single mother with a grown up daughter. Ruth (Rebecca Gardner Tildesley) was also lacking in years. In addition Chris (Nicky Townsend) and Annie’s (Sue Davison) close relationship was not as apparent as it should have been and Chris not as forcible a character as the part demands. Although many lines were delivered beautifully and facial expressions were wonderful, I did not quite believe she would have had the dynamic force to push such a project forward.

However a lovely evening with some great cameos. Well received and a wonderful reminder of the humble beginnings of what has become the fastest selling play in British Theatre. Well done Priory, I now look forward with interest to see how other local groups will fare with their productions.

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