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WHEATHAMPSTEAD DRAMATIC SOCIETY         “Calendar Girls”



Calendar Girls is one of those plays that can’t fail – it is really well written, and has gentle humour, laugh out loud amusement, quiet moments, and downright tear-jerking pathos.


The six main principal ladies were all very strong characters, not a weak link between them, I could really believe the bond between them, which I am sure extended beyond the play – as it is the sort of production that draws the cast together.  Unfortunately because of the strength of the ladies, the men and other lady cast members tended to fade a little into the background, but more of that later.


I liked the cut out set depicting the church hall – however, the backdrop was a little basic in style, and the fact that everyone was squashed into two-thirds of the stage for the majority of the play was a shame, if they have the run of the stage it would have given them more scope for movement. There were only a couple of scenes where they were outside of the hall, so I’m sure these could have been accommodated in some other way.


Lighting was good, and I liked the choice of music.  It was unobtrusive but suited the mood where it was used.


Props overall were good, however there were several places I did feel that the stage crew were too much on view, where the cast could have achieved the removal or setting of props without it looking out of place, e.g. the dress rail, the wheelchair and the chairs during the later scenes of the production.  The sunflower umbrellas for the finale were inspired, and created a lovely poignant ending.  Left me with a few tears – always a good sign!!  


The photo session was beautifully done – the ladies all looked comfortable doing it, which in turn allowed the audience to relax and enjoy it to the full, and it was very well-accomplished.


I thought the play started a little tentatively, but as it was first night I didn’t worry about it, and it picked up well once the cast could see the audience was on their side, and really enjoying the experience.  


Costumes were mostly good – although for the sake of a few extra pounds, I would have liked to see Ruth in a proper rabbit costume – as what she was wearing for that scene did not resemble an animal, so some of the humour was lost.


Sarah Brindley as Cora gave us a lovely performance, as the single parent mother, daughter of the vicar and organist at the church.  She got the nuances of the woman wanting to break out and be herself, whilst also needing to keep the restrictions of her life to date.  Sarah accomplished the piano nude very well.


Chris, the go-getter organiser of the whole calendar, which seemed to be a vehicle for her to get a bit of fame, whilst sometimes losing sight of the main aim of the project, was very well-played by Jan Westgarth.  I liked her full-on management of the rest of the ladies, and her slightly irreverent view of the WI!


Viv Fairley gave us a lovely performance as Annie, whose husband John died from leukaemia, and thus gave rise to the need to fundraise for a sofa for the relatives room, and resulted in the raising of hundreds of thousands of pounds.  Viv was utterly believable, in her anguish and acceptance of the situation.  


Sheila Scull as Jessie, the one time school teacher, had some very funny lines, which she delivered particularly well, and were at odds with her rather prim and proper persona.


Mary Watkinson was Celia, the posh bird, who belonged to the golf club and had once ridden topless on a Harley – Mary tackled the rather complex part very well, and managed to show her more glamorous side, which was at odds with the more restrained WI ladies!


Ruth, played nicely by Barbara Suggitt, was the rather reserved and undemonstrative member of the WI, who always did what the president said – loved the Westlife project!!  


Pip Dowdell gave us a very snobby WI president, Marie, which sat well with the members personas, and gave another dimension to the piece.  


I take my hat off to Robin Langer as John, for shaving his head to achieve the significance of the treatment to him – it was a brave ting to do, but necessary to keep the realism.  He looked a little too healthy at times, but all in all accomplished the role well.


Joe Maher played Rod, Chris’s husband – because of the juxtaposition of their characters I wanted a little more wryness from him, with the knowledge that Chris would only do what she wanted, and whatever he said wouldn’t make a lot of difference.  A difficult part to play, as there isn’t much substance within the play for this character.


Margaret Skilton played both Brenda, the WI speaker, and Lady Cravenshire, giving us a firm portrayal for both characters.


Elaine was a nice cameo role for Hannah Reeve – very believable in that she was enjoying a dalliance with Eddy, Ruth’s husband.  I loved the way Ruth turned her character around when she realised who Elaine was.


The final member of the cast was Jonathan Field, as both the photographer Lawrence, and the TV producer Liam.  I liked his portrayal of Liam better than that of Lawrence, but that said, he did well with both.


So, all in all an excellent production that touched us all, I am sure in different ways depending on our personal experiences.  We laughed uproariously, and shed some tears, and saw a well-acted production that Julie Field and her cast can be rightly proud of.





Wheathampstead Dramatic Society

CALENDAR GIRLS” date: 13th Feb 2013

Memorial Hall, Wheathampstead

Director: Julie Field

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