by Tim Firth.

Tour to 24 July 2010 (current tour).
Runs 2hr30min One interval.
Review: Alan Geary: 1 June at THeatre Royal Nottingham.

As ever, drips with bargain basement sentimentality, but better acted than last year.
The good news is that this year’s Calendar Girls seems better acted than last year’s at the same venue. It might be down to better performers or to new director Roger Haines, perhaps both. The bad news is that it still drips with the same bargain basement sentimentality as before. A packed house, mostly women but the odd token man, loved it.

From Tim Firth, it’s a fairly close adaptation of his successful screenplay. But, presumably to allow for closer exploration of character, it concentrates on seven of the calendar girls instead of all twelve. What with the stock entrances, pauses for applause, and so on, there’s a lot of the extended TV sitcom about it. But the declaiming of one-liners at the audience is much less crude this time round.

Done on a hybrid church hall/Yorkshire Dales set, it’s a celebration of Yorkshire but, more importantly, it’s about middle Englanders taking ownership of their own lives. There’s a lot of Brassed Off and The Full Monty about it, even The Vagina Monologues, but there aren’t any Black or irredeemably working-class characters.

Away from the cheap sentiment, it is occasionally fairly moving. Jessie (Anne Charles) makes a penetrating little speech about old age; and after the break Chris (Gemma Craven) barges in with one about her loathing of plum jam and the traditional image of the WI.

It’s not all women. Colin Tarrant, last seen down the road at Nottingham Playhouse in The Caretaker, is good as John, and so is Dean Gaffney as hospital porter turned rabbity photographer Lawrence. Charlie Dimmock, who is undeniably a woman, is surprisingly convincing as Celia.

Post-interval, scandals are exposed, squabbling and recriminations break out and we get under the skins of some of the characters. There’s even a four-letter word from the hitherto mousy Ruth (Hannah Waterman). But it’s still overall a meat-free, feel-good evening.

Cora: Letitia Dean.
Chris: Gemma Craven.
Annie: Sue Holderness.
Jessie: Anne Charleston.
Celia: Charlie Dimmock.
Ruth: Hannah Waterman.
Marie: Elizabeth Bennett.
Brenda Hulce: Tracey Briggs.
Lady Cravenshire: Su Douglas.
John: Colin Tarrant.
Rod: John Labanowski.
Lawrence/Liam: Dean Gaffney.
Elaine: Mikyla Dodd.

Director: Roger Haines.
Designer: Robert Jones.
Lighting: Tom Lutkin.
Sound: John Leonard.
Costume: Jack Galloway.

2010-06-07 01:37:53

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