CALENDAR GIRLS: Firth, Theatre Royal, Nottingham till 9th July (Touring)

Nottingham/Touring.

CALENDAR GIRLS: Tim Firth.
Theatre Royal: Tkts 0115 989 5555 www.royalcentre-nottingham.co.uk.
Runs: 2h 25m: one interval: till 9th July.
Performance times: 7.30pm, matinees 2.00pm Weds and 2.30pm Sat.
Sign Language Interpreted Performance: Friday.
Review: Alan Geary: 4th July 2011.

A feel-good play that makes you feel . . .
Everyone knows the story by now. Some tolerably respectable ladies, Womens’ Institute members in a picturesque North Yorks village produce a satirical calendar featuring themselves engaged in WI-type activities – in the near buff. The calendar becomes an international sensation.

Calendar Girls, back at the Theatre Royal in what seems to be settling into an annual event, is as cloyingly sentimental, and as popular, as ever.

An almost packed house, overwhelmingly female but including a few token men – it was an evening of tokens – couldn’t get enough.

Of course, there’s the near nudity of a lot of well-known actresses, some of them off the telly; but that’s not the whole explanation. Performances are almost all good; and the production seems to be getting more and more polished every time it turns up.

This is one of a whole sub-genre of plays. A group of good-hearted ordinary folk preferably with northern accents, at first hesitantly, swim against the prevailing culture and make a difference to their own lives – think The Full Monty, Brassed Off or The Pitmen Painters.

Kacey Ainsworth is excellent as Ruth, the token mousey type. Near the end she’s a worm who, complete with the f-word, turns. Lesley Joseph, as the token coarse one Chris, gives a very characteristically over-emphatic performance, with frequent gratuitous looks at the audience. Helen Fraser is fine as Jessie the retired teacher with backbone, also a token.

A couple of set-piece speeches by Fraser and Joseph are well done. But most of the best moments come when tensions and rivalries are surfacing after the interval. The photographing scenes are also funny, and tastefully done.

Some of the singing is agreeable. Kathryn Rooney, successful as token tart Celia has a particularly good voice.

No reviewer who values his own life wants to put the boot into what is a popular show centring on an agreeable bloke, a card-carrying Yorkshireman moreover, who dies of a deadly disease. But it’s that drip, drip, drip of bargain basement sentimentality which prevents this from being a properly rewarding play. Without being overly cynical, for your hardened theatre-goer, it’s a feel-good piece that makes you feel bad.

Cora: Deena Payne.
Chris: Lesley Joseph.
Annie: Sue Holderness.
Jessie: Helen Fraser.
Celia: Kathryn Rooney.
Ruth: Kacey Ainsworth.
Marie: Ruth Madoc.
Brenda Hulce/Lady Cravenshire: Susan Bovell.
John: Colin Tarrant.
Rod: Robert Gill.
Lawrence/Liam: Kevin Sacre.
Elaine: Camilla Dallerup.

Director: Jack Ryder.
Designer: Robert Jones.
Lighting Designer: Tom Lutkin.
Sound Designer: John Leonard.
Costume Designer: Jack Galloway.
Composer and Music Arrangement: Steve Parry.

2011-07-12 10:04:59

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