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Print Version

Written by Tim Firth
Directed by Shane Anthony

at Fortune Theatre, Dunedin
From 10 Nov 2012 to 8 Dec 2012

Reviewed by Barbara Frame, 12 Nov 2012
originally published in Otago Daily Times

After John's death from leukemia, widow Annie and her friends at the Women's Institute decide to use their annual calendar to raise funds for a memorial sofa at the local hospital. But pictures of local bridges are never going to lead to huge sales, so how about nude photographs in, of course, the best possible taste? 

Inspired by a real project in Yorkshire, the stage and film versions of Tim Firth's Calendar Girls have been enormously successful and have raised huge sums for cancer research. 

The play is a conventional, predictable comedy and its ideas seem dated. The theme of middle-aged women looking beyond the traditional activities of knitting, baking and making jam comes straight out of the 1970s, and it's hard to imagine any modern women's group clinging to such limited horizons. But sensitivity, good humour and the strength of the women's courage and friendship go a long way towards overcoming this defect.

Directed by Shane Anthony, the Fortune's production is fine entertainment. The 11-strong, highly experienced cast works together brilliantly, and I particularly enjoyed Danny Still's cameo as Lawrence, the clever and initially terrified photographer, in the photo-shoot scene.

Peter King's village hall set reminded me of the set for the recent production of The Middlemarch Singles Ball at the Globe (village halls everywhere have much in common) but is more detailed, with vinyl-covered chairs, the end of a badminton court, a serving hatch, old upright piano, fire extinguisher and other recognisable paraphernalia. Maryanne Wright-Smythe's costumes reflect their characters' social status and personalities.

Funny, unashamedly sentimental and a guaranteed crowd-pleaser, Calendar Girls promises to be a big hit for end-of-year outings and celebrations. And the programme contains an unexpected bonus: a lift-out 2013 calendar that I'm looking forward to hanging on the kitchen wall. 
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See also reviews by:
 Terry MacTavish
 Brenda Harwood (The Star);