Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

calendar girls top

Facing the naked truth: Emma Preece as Cora, Katie Brown as Celia, Jess Bishop as Ruth and Joan Wakeman as Jessie

Calendar Girls

The Nonentities


Without a doubt Calendar Girls is perhaps one of the most challenging plays for any amateur company to undertake.

The successful film written by Tim Firth in 2003 was inspired by a true story. It was then adapted in 2008 into a play and recently a musical, all three of which have received critical acclaim.

The success of Calendar Girls has also inspired real fundraising initiatives around the world, including both the United States and Australia.

The challenges come in that the play centres on the character of Annie, a woman whose husband dies from Leukaemia. Annie's friend Chris comes up with the idea of creating a glamorous calendar featuring the women of the Women's Institute.

This is no ordinary calendar though as what is agreed upon is that it should feature the women posing nude. This presents its own issues for the actors both in the story and in real life, as although they are strategically placed behind well placed props; it’s still quite an undertaking.

In the play however, the altruistic nature of the women suffers a backlash from some members of their community and the sometimes unwanted media attention it brings to the participants. With every turn, each woman must confront their own personal demons and insecurities as they prepare to pose for the calendar.

close duo

An idea is born with Katy Ball as Chris and Sandy Tudor as Annie

It’s unfair in a production of this nature to single out any of the key players who in the play have to discreetly reveal themselves to the audience. So a very well done to Sandy Tudor as Annie, Katy Ball as Chris, Emma Preece as Cora, Joan Wakeman as Jessie, Katie brown as Celia and Jess Bishop as Ruth. This group of players revelled in the revealing and one by one got a huge cheer and round of applause for their courage.

The play has a very sympathetic and serious undertone though and some skilful direction by Richard Taylor with David Wakemans lighting, helped root the performance and comedy in some touching and heartfelt moments.

Excellent support both on stage and no doubt throughout rehearsals came from Becca Wilbrooke as the feisty Marie and Chris Meusz as Brenda with Beth Dalton as Elaine.

Dying John

The inspiration: David Wilkes as John and his soon to be widow Annie

Jen Eglington makes a haughty appearance as Lady Cravenshire and completes what was primarily a female driven show both on stage and behind the scenes.  However David Wilkes as John with Martin Slater as two of the respective husbands, with Chris Kay as the photographer all stole a small part of the women’s limelight.   

One can imagine the delicacy of producing the show and bringing this performance into being but the sell-out crowd were moved by both the comedy and tragedy of this performance.

Of course in the end the genuine reason for the women’s efforts, triumphs as it should over any criticism.

Calendar Girls remains both a heart-warming and humorous story that is relevant still today. It goes a long way in exploring the themes of lasting friendship, grief, and the power of female solidarity and of course it’s all done in the best possible taste

All will be revealed until 25-02-23

Jeff Grant


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