MONDAY 12 NOVEMBER 2012 – 13:00-14:00

REVIEWS of : ‘Calendar Girls’ by Tim Firth. Directed by Wendy Goddard for the Claremont Dramatic Society. At the Masque Theatre, Muizenberg, 8-24 November.

REVIEWER: Ruth Allsopp

AIRTIME: 3.30 minutes


Many listeners will have seen the movie “Calendar Girls” in 2003, starring Helen Mirren and Julie Walters. Tim Firth adapted the film script for the stage and the play made a highly successful tour of the United Kingdom. It is running at the Masque Theatre, Muizenberg, presented by the Claremont Dramatic Society and directed by Wendy Goddard.


The story is based on actual events: a Yorkshire branch of the Women’s Institute decided to put out an ‘alternative’ calendar for charity, featuring its members posing nude. Carefully placed items preserved their modesty. The calendar became a ‘global phenomenon’. Being a film adaptation, the script has inevitably a somewhat scattered feel.


Goddard carefully chose a talented cast of 14, each member creating a believable, distinct character. Fiona Carling (Annie) and Jo Frater (Chris), as the two begetters of the calendar scheme, gave fine performances. Carling had sincere moments of pathos in scenes with her ill husband (John Carne in an excellent cameo) and after his death. Frater convincingly showed the less desirable side of Chris’s personality – her love of the limelight. Allison Blair was the bossy Women’s Institute branch chairlady (Marie); her diction, as always, was impeccable.


Melissa Sanderson, as single mother, church organist and rebellious vicar’s daughter, Cora, was suitably off-beat; Jane Cohen, as a retired schoolteacher Jessie, was wry and dry, but must beware of a tendency to drop voice volume on turning upstage. Lesley Gill’s Celia was delightfully glamorous, while Kirsty Cunnington, as the tense, reluctant Ruth, won audience approval when ‘the worm turned’. Rudy Gibbons was the nervous photographer who gradually gained confidence.


All the smaller roles were well executed by Kim R2, Brian Notcutt, Lynn Moss, Jennifer Moss and Barrie Howard.


The multiple set, designed by Goddard, was easily movable and scene changes were speedily done. Gary Fargher’s lighting design was expertly operated by Bob Goode, and the cast’s selection of costumes superbly suited each character.


There were a few stilted moves, a little ‘masking’, the Yorkshire accent drifted here and there, and the pace was sometimes too fast, especially at the start. But these are quibbles in an enjoyable, energetic production.


The full-house audience gave the show a most enthusiastic reception at its close.

‘Calendar Girls’ by Tim Firth runs at the Masque Theatre, Muizenberg, until Saturday 24 November. Book through Masque Theatre Bookings.


This review appeared in the Cape Times on the 13th November.



KNAPELEY Women’s Institute (WI) is more associated practising Tai Chi on Yorkshire Hills, baking cakes, making marmalade and opening monthly meetings singing Parry’s anthem Jerusalem than posing for a fund-raising calendar.


But that’s what six WI women did when John (John Carne), horticulturist husband to Annie (Fiona Carling), is diagnosed with leukemia requiring chemotherapy. They decide to raise £580 to replace the hospital’s uncomfy visitors lounge settee.


As Chris, Jo Frater enthusiastically draws her WI friends into her plan…a calendar with them posing “not naked but nude.” It’s a daring scheme and she’s not a natural pushy fund raiser. Rather its her belief that this is “the way to go for John” that drives her even – for a while – alienating Annie and Rod her husband (a blustering Brian Notcutt).


In a sincere performance Carling’s Annie passed through the gamut of emotions every wife would feel when learning her husband is terminally ill.


Over a six month period, most action takes place in Knapeley’s dreary church hall, during which dramatist Tim Frith humorously but sensitively weaves character trait differences between the players.


Cora’s (Melissa Sanderson) cheerful ability to play piano, while leading the singing, hid her hurt that her daughter had run away to find her unknown father. As former school teacher Jessie, Jane Cohen’s bespeckled, somewhat drab appearance, belied her spunk and willingness to discard her clothing…for charity. Frith allocated her some amusing lines, but Cohen’s too soft Yorkshire accent often lost the punch to audience ears.


Bright personality Lesley Gill, as sexy golfer Celia, held no inhibitions about exposing herself. It was Ruth (Kirsty Cunnington) whose timidity and reluctance almost scuppered the venture, while Rudy Gibbons made the most of his role as embarrassed photographer Lawrence.

Into this arena came Allison Blair as delightfully bossy Marie – chairman of the WI. And in cameo parts were Brenda (Kim R2) whose “boring” lecture (thankfully) got aborted; Lynn Moss as “posh” Lady Cravenshire; make-up expert Elaine (Jennifer Moss) and Liam (Barrie Howard) as “twee” organiser for an unscheduled nude press photo-call for the sextet.


On stage nudity isn’t rare. Nudity at the Masque is. But director Wendy Goddard, her assistant director Kyla Thorburn and the ladies did themselves proud as comically they manipulated dressing gowns and table-cloths before exposing themselves in (tasteful) nude poses.

Sunflowers were John’s passion, and the Calendar Girls successful calendar led to sunflowers becoming international symbol for leukemia research fund-raising projects. Do see this well directed and acted true, heartwarming story.

To book and check performance days call 021 788 1898.

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