Cromer and Sheringham Operatic and Dramatic Society

Calendar Girls  (October 2012)

Well what a week we had. Full houses, queues for tickets, wonderful audiences and the most wonderful funny but heartwarming production. And if that was not enough, the BBC were with us filming us for The One Show (shown on Wednesday 24th October BBC1) plus if that wasn't enough, we had a suprise guest - Angela Baker, the original Calendar and real life Annie. Angela met the cast and crew, and joined our opening night audience as well as joining us in the pub afterwards. What a lovely lady and what an honour and joy to have her with us.

At first glance it should look like your classic WI calendar. Jams, cakes and sewing and all that. Except for one thing......'the ladies are not naked, they're nude'.

A group of extraordinary women, members of a very ordinary Yorkshire WI, persuade one another to pose for a charity calendar with a difference - no more photos of Wharfedale bridges or Norman churches for them. Overcoming their initial reserve, the friends drop their dressing gowns, their modesty spared only by artfully placed cakes, knitting and flower arrangements.

Puzzling their husbands, mortifying their children and riding the wrath of the outraged WI, they spark a global phenomenon. But as media interest snowballs, the Calendar Girls find themselves exposed in ways they'd never expected, revealing more than they'd ever planned. A very English story with a very English heart, Calendar Girls is quirky, poignant and hilarious.

Adapted by Tim Firth from the Miramax film of the same name, it is based on an uplifting and very inspiring true story.

Released for amateur performances for just 12 months, CSODS were proud to be one of the first amateur societies to stage this wonderfully heartwarming and uplifting play and certainly the first in Norfolk.  

Review by Sue Dupont - NODA East Region 5

This was my first viewing (no doubt of many) of the play, and different from the film, and really how extraordinarily funny the whole play and the comedy extracted to the full by this company, but with those interludes of solemnity, pathos, tragedy, quiet, thoughtfulness, and the well worked relationships between these WI women. The strength of CSODS was in the entire working team of Director Martin Howard and the Company in the realisation of the very different characters and the changes in their lives, and the success of the project.

Perhaps one should begin with the initiator of the story, Andrea Payne played the part of John with a wry sense of humour and recipient of the blow that fate had dealt, such good loving relationship with Annie his wife (Amanda Howell), and his final scene with such a quiet dignity that brought the audience into sad realisation and personal remembrances. Annie was a quiet tower of strength and thoughtfulness, and then swept up into her ambition for that sofa. And what a strong friendship and interplay and relationship with her friend Chris (Chrissie Robertson), who just ran away with ideas and enthusiasm without thought of where it might lead; these two were the lynch pin of this amazing play and how they drove the action forward with their characters. And yet Chris lost her plot in her thoughtlessness of relationship with husband Rod, very well played in the minor role by Peter Howell. Those other 'calendar girls' all developed a strong character role to be an important team which realised full potential and importance: the 'golf-course' girl Celia of Kate Leggett with her underlying doubts on confidence but brash veneer, the ex-teacher of knitting skills Jessie from Mary Cubitt, the 'Jerusalem-playing' piano lady of Brenda Binns who rallied the troops with song, and the cowed and influenced by authority Ruth of Joanna Ryan who came through to support and triumph in the end: all the calendar girls were the golden core of this play and I must congratulate them all for their individual and well worked characterisations and overcoming doubts towards a common goal and purpose as well as the clever and tasteful posing for that calendar. Ruth Elliott as Marie the President of the WI fully developed her 'County' style and voice and prejudices and was an excellent foil to the group of 'girls'. And in a micro-cameo hilarious comedy role, the 'broccolli speaker' Brenda Hulse of Jackie Overton was a comedy moment to relish and a joy.

This whole production brought the story to life and all experienced the complete mood swings from the comedy and abandoned laughter shaking the auditorium in some sequences to the quiet and tearful moments such as those letters floating down to the stage: the team achieved so much in this play. And made the whole project of £3 million raised for Leukaemia Research resonate into all lives.