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Promotional poster for 'Calendar Girls'

Calendar Girls

Liverpool Empire
November 21 November 26

Author: Tim Firth Director: Jack Ryder Producer: David Pugh & Dafydd Rogers Cast Includes: Lynda Bellingham, Joe McGann, Debbie Chazen, June Watson, Jennifer Ellison, Ruth Madoc, Rula Lenska, Jan Harvey, Bruno Langley, John Labanowski,

Running Time: 2 hrs 30 mins

That a story that begins with such a tragedy as the death of a husband at 54 from Non-Hodkin’s Lymphoma can turn out to be so uplifting is tribute in itself to the staging and the very fact to that The Empire – a massive auditorium fronted by the biggest stage area outside of London – rarely carries “straight plays” further underlines its class.

The phenomenal success story of the world’s biggest charity calendar sale held by the world’s most famous Women’s Institute is so widely known through the media and film coverage it has received that it could conceivably become something of a cliché of itself. However, on this staging, thanks to a quite exemplary cast, some neat direction and some downright funny writing this incarnation of Calendar Girls is a joy from first-to-last and a credit to the “originals” of Cracoe in North Yorkshire.

The thing with Calendar Girls is that audiences can relate to each and every one of them. We all know a Chris and a Marie and a Ruth and a Jessie. All too sadly, we all know a John, too, who is played with great pathos here by Joe McGann.

Lynda Bellingham as Chris and Jan Harvey as the bereaved Annie are sensational, bouncing lines off each other so well that you can barely see the seams. Excellent too are Jennifer Ellison as young single mum Cora and Ruth Madoc as stuffy WI “Don” Marie, who’s pontification-turned-to-spite superiority is a joy to see unfold.

Yet of the “ladies what strip” it has to be said that the show is stolen by both Debbie Chazen as the cheated upon Ruth, who’s simple naiveté and charm, right up to the point she can exact revenge, is just delightful, and June Watson as the retired schoolteacher Jessie who’s comic timing, delivery and understated venom is magnificent.

That the “girls” have made over £3 million towards Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research since starting their adventure, if nothing else, deserves applauding long and loud, and this production of “their” story certainly makes the audiences who see it do that.

Chris High

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“Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
break the rules as I see fit.” - Chris High 2003.
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