Flash of flesh is fun yet poignant

CALENDAR GIRLS presented by Pemads at the Little Theatre until August 31. Reviewed by Gillian McAinsh

A VIBRANT amateur cast brings this feel-good play to life on the Little Theatre stage in Port Elizabeth until next weekend.

The true tale, of the doughty yet naughty members of the Women’s Institute (WI) of Yorkshire who were photographed for a charity calendar in traditional WI activities, has been adapted from the 2003 screenplay of the film.

The spice in the bun was that these women all posed in the nude, strategically placing teacups, flowers and home-baked tarts over their (mostly) middle-aged flesh.

The calendar was a huge success for leukaemia fundraising, and the “Yorkshire nude girls” sparked off a slew of copycats.

Under the direction of Pemads chairman Lesley Barnard, the experienced local cast rises to the occasion as beautifully as a prize-winning WI sponge cake. In fact, the cast has been surprised to see how moved the audience has been since opening earlier this week, with tears spotted on at least one gala night.

Certainly, when the film came out 10 years ago I knew far fewer people with cancer. I also don’t remember the film having so many sad moments but then, today, I have more than one friend who is fighting for their lives against the illness and they are far from alone.

That aspect of Calendar Girls adds a poignancy to the production and the programme highlights the work of the Igazi Foundation cancer charity, which is the beneficiary of all calendar sales.

However, how marvellous it is to be able to have a good laugh as the “calendar girls” charge through the witty British script with gusto and verve.

Rose Cowpar is hilarious as the over-the-top Chris, who pushes ahead with her saucy ideas while her bereaved friend, Annie, is played with great sensitivity by Yolande Farrow. The scenes with her loveable husband, John (Mark Farrow, her partner in real life also) are so touching.

Although they are the stars of the show the ensemble cast is excellent, with crusty WI head (Liz Yates), big-busted Celia (Holly Milne) and down-trodden Ruth (Vanessa Smith) all in fine form.

Barnard is not quite old enough to play a retired principal but cannot be faulted – she jumped in at the last minute from the director’s seat when a cast member fell ill – and Tanya Taylor’s Cora shows the free spirit this character remains at heart.

The set of the WI village hall is spot on, the lighting reveals and camouflages just what it needs to and the sound complements the action well.

The supporting cast includes Anton Steyn as the endearingly nervous photographer, Jason Perry – another effective last minute stand-in – Helen Wilkins, Isabel McTiffin, Emily Bradly, Lance Bright and Robert van den Ordel.

By the way, there are no “naked” women – they are “nude” and there is quite a difference.

It is a fun yet poignant evening for anyone from 12 to 100 with each cast member a solid performer – some physically as well as dramatically! – and overall it adds up to a delightful evening out.

ýTickets R65 from cast members or R75 from Computicket.

Leave a Reply

Please keep in mind that comments are moderated according to our comment moderation policy. Your email address is required but will not be published.