WDG as you’ve never seen them before! (A review of CALENDAR GIRLS by Karen Ractliffe)


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Above, WDG’s ‘Calendar Girls’: Debbi Clarke, Denni Prior, Ruth Jordan, CathyDeVries, Denise Pastor and Kelly Humphries.

The true story of the Calendar Girls began in the Yorkshire Dales, in England, in 1998. After the death of her husband from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Angela Baker and her friends from the Rylstone Women’s Institute began raising money for the local hospital that treated him. They had a simple but striking fundraising idea: they produced an “alternative W.I. calendar” featuring the ladies engaged in the traditional activities associated with the W. I. “jams, cakes and sewing and all that. Except for one thing . . . they’re nude.”

The original calendar, showing the women posed tastefully behind buns, flower arrangements, craftwork and the like, was released in 1999 and the women hoped to sell enough copies to buy a sofa for the hospital visitor’s lounge. The original batch sold out in a week. Within 9 months a further 88,000 copies had been sold and then the ladies were invited to the US to promote an American version, appearing on the Jay Leno and Rosie O’Donnell shows. In its first year, the calendar sold over 202,000 copies. Proceeds were used to fund a new leukeamia research laboratory at LeedsUniversity which was dedicated to the memory of John Baker and “the exceptional fundraising achievements of ‘The Calendar Girls’ of the Rylstone & District Women’s Institute.”*

The ladies have continued to produce annual calendars and the idea has taken off globally. Women all over the world have joined the cause, producing similar calendars in aid of cancer research. (See the WDG press releases in the Theatre & Dance category to the right of this page for details and pictures). To date the movement has raised over 7 million pounds for the cause.

In 2003 Miramax released an award winning movie, starring Julie Walters and Helen Mirren, based on the story of the calendar. Now, in 2013, Wyong Drama Group present Tim Firth’s stage adaptation of the movie in the latest chapter of this world wide phenomenon.

Firth’s storyline changes the names and a few other details, but the heart of the tale remains: a touching human story told with plenty of humour, warmth and affection. The play recreates the first year from the onset of John’s illness. After his death his wife Annie and her best friend Chris form the idea of producing the calendar and take on the task of persuading their W.I. friends to help (and explaining, in the process, the difference between “nude” and “naked”). Then they face new challenges after the unexpected success of the calendar. Through the course of events we come to know the moving stories of each of these very different women as they rise above grief and loss, personal insecurities and adversity, and the prejudice of other members of the W. I. to accomplish their unique and inspiring achievement.

Wyong Drama Group has pulled out all the stops for their production. Director Howard Oxley has gathered a stellar ensemble cast of Wyong’s best and brightest actors, all of whom give fine performances that bring to life these endearing characters and their touching story. They are supported by clever staging and lighting and well chosen music, and film projected on a movie screen helps to evoke the countryside of the Yorkshire Dales and a flavour of the annual activities of English country life.

A special gala show on Saturday night included a performance by the Central Coast Concert Band, with catered refreshments and cocktails, and tasty snacks continue to be available at all performances.

Most importantly, as is traditional with productions of the play, WDG have produced an “alternative calendar” for 2014 depicting the cast and director posing tastefully “nude, not naked” in the manner of the original calendar. Copies are available for sale at each performance and at outlets around the Central Coast (see the WDG website for details) with proceeds going to the leukaemia foundation.

The production has been a resounding success in its opening weekend, playing to packed and enthusiastic audiences. I was moved to laughter and tears on opening night, and admiration for WDG’s own ‘calendar girls’ who are no less brave than the original ladies of the W.I. When the time came for them to recreate their calendar poses live on stage they received hearty cheering and support from the audience.

Calendar Girls closes this weekend and tickets are selling like hot cakes and jam, so act now if you don’t want to miss out. And don’t forget to buy a calendar to support cancer research and to see members of Wyong Drama Group as you’ve never seen them before!

For full details and to book tickets visit www.wyongdramagroup.com

*quotation reproduced from Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calendar_Girls

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About About the Central Coast

"About the Central Coast" is a FREE monthly ezine, supported by an online blog, that provides readers with a one-stop shop for information and reviews on all their favourite theatre groups, bands and artists on and around the Central Coast. Subscription to the magazine is free; just send an email with SUBSCRIBE in the subject line to about@y7mail.com The magazine is distributed by email on the first Thursday of each month. If you have an event you would like me to promote in the magazine, please send details at least three days prior. Items for the blog may be sent any time.
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