"Calendar Girls has become a true British institution since the inspiring true story became a box office smash hit and the fastest selling play in British theatre history.
Dereham Theatre Company’s girls threw themselves into the stage production with great enthusiasm, energy and bravery. It’s not the easiest thing to do to take your kit off in your own town with lots of your friends watching.
They clearly loved the experience of performing the show and also becoming local celebrities through their own alternative version of the calendar.
It was great to see a really healthy audience for the opening night - and local support continued for the rest of the week.
Director David Rees lost his sister to leukaeumia when she was 22 and so the story line has been very poignant for him.
Under his direction the cast ensured the very funny parts of the show were accentuated, the pathos was brought to the fore and the power of the strained friendships was strongly portrayed.
Enough flesh was on display to do justice to the very basis of the play, while the modesty of the cheeky girls was maintained (just!).
Calendar Girls left the audience not knowing whether to laugh more or cry more and there are lots of memorable lines such as “Lawrence - we need considerably bigger buns!” and “one lump or two?” as one of the naked ladies came from behind the hatch with just a large teapot and cup.
It’s a great play by a great cast and raising valuable money for worthy causes.
I don’t normally give everyone a name check in reviews - but on this occasion they really deserve it! So here goes: Samantha Elmhurst (Cora), Jane Mack (Chris), Karen Bates (Annie), Colleen Harris (Jessie), Julie Hewitt (Celia), Marilyn Cara (Ruth), Zelda Rolfe (Marie), Sonia Sandell (Brenda Hulse), Ian Sandell (John), Tony Wilds (Rod), Ruth Hannent (Lady Cravenshire), Russell Baylin (Lawrence), Hannah Rolfe (Elaine) and Mark Wells (Liam)."
Review by Stephen P. E. Hayter (Regional Representative N.O.D.A. Area 4 North)
Friday May 10th 2013
"It seems that you just can’t turn in any direction these days without bumping into a production of Tim Firth’s masterpiece, “Calendar Girls”. This was my third outing so far and I have already described it as probably the best comedy play ever written. Indeed it has that rare quality that can make you laugh and cry, sometimes within the same three lines, and I am also on record as saying it will become the new “Oliver”, as a staple of amateur societies everywhere (when it is available). This of course is a blessing, and a curse, as it is already impossible to review Calendar Girls without mentally referring back to the other productions already seen. All that said it was a genuine pleasure to be once again standing in for the irrepressible Sue Dupont with a society who have a gargantuan reputation.
The story of “Calendar Girls” surely needs no retelling. Suffice to say that this compelling tale of girl power and establishment confrontation speaks to everyone. The set was excellent and I much admired the technical side of this performance with the letter dropping sequence and the final sunflower display both beautifully presented. Lighting was perfectly appropriate and costumes, whilst not overly taxing were equally suitable.
Of the supporting cast Mark Wells as Television Director, Liam, Hannah Rolfe as duplicitous beautician Elaine, Russell Baylin as shy photographer, Lawrence and Ruth Hannent as Lady Cravenshire all put in solid perfomances with a nice cameo from Sonia Sandell as broccoli aficionada Brenda Hulse. Zelda Rolfe gave a polished characterisation as officious Society Chairman Marie and Tony Wilds was outstanding as Chris’s husband, Rod and stood up extremely well against previous performers in this part.
For this superb story of collective female empowerment it is essential for the ladies to really forge themselves into a single fighting unit and the Dereham cast certainly achieved this with good perfomances from Samantha Elmhurst as Cora, Colleen Harris as Jessie and Marilyn Cara as probably the best Ruth I have seen so far. The relationship between Annie and Chris is the very backbone of this show and it follows that the parts, and the way they are played, is critical. As florist, best friend and frustrated headliner Chris, Jane Mack did a nice job throughout, the WI conference rant was a little rushed but still executed to a high standard. My compliments to Ian Sandell as Cancer victim and the inspiration behind the calendar John Clark who made me cry with a truly beautiful death scene.
Penultimate paragraph honours are split this time with two really outstanding perfomances. Firstly, the perennially excellent Karen Bates as inspirational widow, Annie who showed her incredible versatility by keeping a lid on the part and showing all the emotion without becoming excessively emotional. Her stage presence was tremendous, even when she was not talking and in several tricky situations she looked to be the calm hand at the tiller. For the first time I have singled out the character of Celia played to perfection by Julie Hewitt. This is the only time I have seen the part done to the level that I would have wanted, with the role being almost downgraded to a supporting one in previous productions. Ms Hewitt gave a wonderful characterisation with comic timing that most amateur performers would kill for.
It was a good production overall, although as I left my seat on what was the third night, I lamented the three prompts and the two cover ups that I might have overlooked on an opening night. Direction by David Rees was extremely tidy capturing perfectly all the key features. There was nothing new, but that is not necessarily a criticism and I am still mindful that it may have been my third exposure, but the audience were mostly new to this title. Well done to all concerned for another good night’s entertainment."