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Calender Girls - Tribute more than just a weepie
2:07pm Thursday 31st October 2013 in Local news
It started with a calendar then there was a movie and finally came the stage play. The true story of the Rylstone WI members who made a calendar featuring themselves in the nude is funny and moving. At one of their regular meetings, their snobby chairwoman Marie played ably by Sandy Hill, is upstaged by feisty Chris, played with flair by Rachel Conyers, and is not helped when the speaker, played by Ann Bradley, fails to gain their interest in her talk on broccoli. We meet the rest of the members: stoical Annie, whose husband Tony is dying of cancer, the latter played with a mordant wit by Tony Clegg; Cora, the errant vicar’s daughter; the put- upon Ruth whose husband is cheating on her; the posh Celia, scourge of the local golfing club and Jessie, the former teacher with a brilliant line in mischief coupled with respectability. The first half builds up to the scene where the photographs are taken by the shy local photographer, played with neurotic fervour by Bruce Sturrock and the women steel their nerves with swigs from the vodka bottle. The story is more than a weepie: we see the strains in the relationship of Annie and Chris, as the latter is swept along by their success, and the former feels that the reason that they embarked on the project, namely the number of deaths through cancer, is lost to her. This was one of the great strengths of the film and again of this play.
The women receive thousands of letters from across the world from people who are moved by their fundraising and this is emphasised as the letters rain down. The WI opposed their plan to sell the calendar under their banner but ultimately relented.
And the odd thing is that in doing so the organisation got rid of its dusty image, bringing it firmly into the 21st century. This production is a worthy tribute to it and its feisty members.
- At Ilkley Playhouse until November 9. Tickets on (01943) 609539 or book online at ilkleyplayhouse.co.uk