[img]http://hits.guardian.co.uk/b/ss/guardiangu-feeds/1/H.20.3/8534?ns=guardian&pageName=Kelly+Brook+in+Calendar+Girls%3A+a+body+blow+for+feminism+%7C+Sally+Stott%3AArticle%3A1312054&ch=Stage&c3=GU.co.uk&c4=Kelly+Brook%2CWest+End%2CTheatre%2CStage%2CCulture+section&c6=Sally+Stott&c7=09-Nov-30&c8=1312054&c9=Article&c10=Blogpost&c11=Stage&c13=&c25=Theatre+blog&c30=content&h2=GU%2FStage%2Fblog%2FTheatre+blog[/img]It's meant to be an antidote to our youth-obsessed attitude to women. So why cast a 30-year-old ex-model in this West End show?
In the posters for the new cast of the West End production of Calendar Girls, the actresses mimic the tongue-in-cheek humour of the 2003 film, posing nude but covering their bits and pieces with various household objects. Everything is exactly as you'd expect – apart from a single glaring fact. One of the women splashed across the billboards is Kelly Brook, a former model and, at 30 years old, hardly your average WI member.
While the posters portray more mature members of the cast hidden behind large bouquets of flowers or pieces of furniture, Metro eagerly reported that the teeny iced buns concealing Brook's modesty had to be redrawn three times because Transport for London were "worried about titillating customers". I've no doubt that the show's producers thought long and hard about the problem, but I suspect "worried" wasn't the word.
Previously, Brook's character, Celia, was created by Celia Imrie then taken up on stage by Jerry Hall. Both women are in their 50s. The show would have to run for at least another 20 years for Brook to be anywhere near the age of her predecessors, still less the real-life Calendar Girls she is representing.
I don't have anything against Brook. Indeed, you have to admire her courage in appearing on stage when she really can't act, still less do a convincing Yorkshire accent. But surely the whole point of Calendar Girls is that it celebrates women who are normally overlooked and underappreciated. As Ian Mckellen pointed out earlier this year, the show is a rare vehicle for mature female performers, many of whom have come up against the well-reported lack of decent roles for older women. There are great actors of varying ages, shapes and sizes in the current cast: Arabella Weir, Rosalind Knight, Debbie Chazen, Helen Lederer. I can only conclude that the producers don't feel their combined talent is an attractive enough prospect for audiences.
The Daily Mail concluded a feature about the original cast by suggesting: "As those Calendar Girls proved – even middle-aged women with wrinkles and saggy bits can achieve the impossible." If only. It's clear that the producers don't have any faith in the show, still less in Tim Firth's poignant, funny script, which has been altered, apparently permanently, to accommodate a character who is significantly younger.
And how about this for a punchline? It was recently announced that "Hollyoaks Babe" Gemma Atkinson will play Celia as part of a 2010 national tour of the show. Atkinson is just 25, making her perhaps the youngest Calendar Girl yet. I wonder what will protect her modesty when the new posters for the show are unveiled. Not very much, I bet.
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Guardian: Kelly Brook in Calendar Girls: a body blow for feminism | Sally Stott
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