Calendar Girls, Bristol Hippodrome

8 05 2012

Last year, the Bristol University ladies netball team made headlines across the world after they posed for a naked calendar. They were young, fit and nubile, but it is doubtful whether they would have derobed for the calendar if not for a group of pensioners from a WI branch in Yorkshire.

This is the final tour of Calendar Girls, the stage show based upon the true story that became a film that in turn became the fastest-selling tour in UK theatre history.

We all know the story, have probably seen the film, and judging by the reaction of many of the audience, have also seen this show at least once (it was previously at the Hippodrome less than two years ago).

The skill of this production is telling such a well-known story with a twinkle in its eye, and what it is best at is making us feel part of the close knit group of friends who make up the Knapely WI.

When Annie’s husband John dies from leukaemia, we share their grief. And when the idea for a calendar is muted and finally carried out, we share their initial embarrassment and later their joyful abandon as dressing gowns are ripped off.

The shoot at the end of Act One is hilarious, with clever lighting and strategically positioned props sparing the actresses’ blushes. Like “This is a knife” from Crocodile Dundee, the “I think we’re going to need bigger buns” line from this scene has now become a well-known phrase in the English language.

Oxo mum and original theatrical Calendar Girl Original Linda Bellingham’s flower arrangement has to be seen to be believed, while the outrageous pose pulled by Ruth provoked howls of laughter.

Not quite so funny was the role of Strictly Come Dancing dancer Camilla Dallerup, nude on the promotional material in the now famous pose around the piano, but actually featuring only briefly and fully clothed as a beautician.

That little bit of misleading marketing aside, Calendar Girls was a funny and moving production which will provoke both tears of laughter and tears of happiness.

And what a wonderful statistic to leave with, that the original calendar girls have now raised more than three million pounds. Beat that Bristol Uni netball girls.

Calendar Girls is at Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday. Click here for more information.


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