Grand Opera House, York
Everyone knows the story: a group of extraordinary women, members of a very ordinary Yorkshire Women’s Institute (WI) group, persuade one another to pose for a charity calendar with a difference.
The Calendar Girls, as they came to be known, dedicated the calendar to John Baker who had died the previous year in 1998. John’s wife Angela (Miss February) and friends were members of the local WI. At one meeting Angela’s friend Tricia Stewart (Miss October) suggested that they do an alternative WI calendar, in the nude. The idea provided much mirth and entertainment for John throughout his difficult treatment. After his death, the women were determined to continue.
John grew sunflowers from the onset of his illness and gave them to friends and family in the hope that he would have recovered by the time they flowered. Sadly, this was not the case, but the sunflower lives on as a reminder of John’s life and has become a symbol for the Girls’ fundraising.
The Girls initially aimed to generate funds to buy a new sofa for the hospital where John was being treated. To date, they have raised more than £1.5 million for Leukaemia Research, have been the subject of a smash hit Hollywood film starring Helen Mirren and Julie Walters, and filled more column inches than they can count and now their story is re-enacted in this hit stage show.
Pick Me Up Theatre presented the York premiere of the show – which raised money for St Leonard's Hospice – in a production described by the York Press as "both uplifting and touching".
Reviewing the show, Nadia Jefferson-Brown said "Martin Hunter is superb as John whose death is sensitively shown with simplicity and request under Robert Readman's direction."
She said Sandy Nicholson as Chris and Jackie Cox as Annie made a great double act as the calendar figureheads – and the cast brought the house down with their derobing escapades. You can read the full review here.
Robert told the Press there was a real benefit in staging the show without big star celebs. "Taking out the star names improves it because the play is about real people, so having our [community] cast totally changes the nature of directing and performing the show.
"I just think the play really benefits from having actresses with no axe to grind or a career to revive. With us, you forget about that gimmicky side of it; you focus on the heartfelt side of it; the cancer; losing a husband.”
19 -24 NOVEMBER 2012
Brenda Hulse/Lady Cravenshire
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