Lynda Bellingham is warm and funny as Chris, rallying the Calendar Girls into action on behalf of best friend Annie (Trudie Goodwin) – who has recently lost her husband John (Joe McGann) to Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. The gentle humour of Tim Firth's script swells with the passing of the seasons, culminating hilariously with the now world-famous calendar photo-shoot, deftly achieved on stage with the strategic placing of cakes, knitting and flower arrangements.
As well as its incredible fund-raising power, the calendar has an unlooked-for effect on some of the participants. Timid Ruth blossoms with confidence in a fantastic performance by Lisa Riley, and Gwen Taylor is an impassioned ambassador for the “final flowering” as Jessie, the oldest member of the group.
Once the giddy excitement of the calendar photo-shoot is over, the action in the second half feels slow by comparison, but this picks up as soon as the calendar's ripple effect becomes apparent. The emotional letters of those affected by the campaign float down onto the stage, creating a strikingly poignant moment as we're reminded of the reason behind the calendar in the first place – echoed in Robert Jones' clever set with the stunning use of the sunflowers John loved.
Don't miss this side-achingly funny and beautifully moving show.
- Harriet Chandler