Calendar Girls is one of those perennial, feel-good, true stories that will always bring a laugh.
Image: The cast of Calendar Girls. Supplied.
Calendar Girls is one of those perennial, feel-good, true stories that will always bring a laugh, a tear to the eye and, hopefully, money for a good cause through large audiences and good conscience. Certainly, the buoyant, opening night participation, which must have carried on from the all-day footie party, filled all the seats with loud encouragement and laughter at the appropriate times.
Any people who have lived in a small town where the local hall or church is the place of most excitement could relate to this group of women, from 45 to 65 years, who are fed up with talks about ‘The History of the Teatowel’ or ‘The Benefits of Broccoli’ and are reluctant to contribute to yet another calendar about the scenic attractions of their local region, Yorkshire. Through adversity, in the form of the slow decline from cancer of one of the women’s husbands, John, (played by John Voce), an alternative emerges in the form of a calendar to raise £500 for a more comfortable settee in the waiting room of the local hospital where John would end his days. The stroke of sheer genius in the idea was that the women would all be photographed, ‘tastefully’ naked, by local photographer, Lawrence (Johnathan Peck) who, to me, was the star of the show, probably because he brought some vitality to it, which the show sorely needed. While, admittedly, the Geordie accent is not the easiest to get your tongue around, many of the lines were lost on the audience because the cast just didn’t seem to be ‘in character!’ They moved awkwardly, sometimes not appearing to know where to move and, good performers as they all are, the words became soft and garbled at times. ‘Diversions’ like Ruth’s (Lulu McClatchy) craftwork didn’t hit the mark, nor did the music or the grab of some jazz by Cora (Kate Gorman). It was just a case of less would have been more, less trying to reproduce the whole story, word for word, and more time spent on capturing the photographs which, for 18 years, wowed nearly a dozen countries world wide and raised over $8 million dollars. This scene was a beautiful cameo, brilliantly devised, eventually but, with half the original component of women in the film, it needed more concentration on each subject and time taken with less people on the stage, ‘observing’ but contributing nothing.
However, it delivered the cheers and laughter and good humour which moved the play on to the next important scenes with television miscommunication and dissent between the two main characters, Chris (Jenny Seedsman) and Annie ((Abi Richardson). The achievement of the original women was extraordinary and the effect of the success on each of their lives was an important part of the film. Unfortunately, on this stage, I felt this did not get the attention it deserved and the concentration was more on getting the lines out with that difficult accent and moving the play along.
Let’s hope, in this age of female equality, that the bawdy laughter and cheers were for the courage and mutual co-operation of middle-aged women following through on an admirable decision and not just for the fact that they were taking their clothes off!
Rating: 3 1/2 stars out of 5
Written by Tom Firth
Producer: Prince Moo Productions by arrangement with Alan Brodie Ltd
Director: Peter J. Snee
Venue: Athenaeum Theatre, 188 Collins Street, Melbourne
Date: Friday, September 29, 2017
Season: 27 September – 7 October 2017
First published on
What the stars mean?
- Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
- Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
- Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
- Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
- Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
- Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
- Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
- One star: Awful, to be avoided
- Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level