Well, we have all probably seen the film – a bunch of middle – aged, bored housewives from a remote Yorkshire village, who, to raise money, decide to do a saucy calendar of them all naked. The film had such stars as Julie Walters and Helen Mirren and was a phenomenal success with all the cast being remembered for their bravery on the big screen.
So, for the award-winning amateur dramatic group – D & S Productions – this was an even more courageous choice of show to attempt, in front of a live local audience. But attempt it they did, led by their chair and director/producer Donna Dale and Charlotte Allmand (choreographer), Craig Price (musical director) and Steve Dale (stage manager). To even dream of doing this was ambitious but to bring this challenging concept alive on stage was an encounter few would attempt.
As the show began, with the enigmatic Antony Holden playing John (the reason of the calendar) walking through the hills of Yorkshire singing how his Yorkshire town did the same thing every day – I was intrigued as to how the production team were going to reach these high expectations.
The first couple of numbers seemed a little loud (not sure if it was a technical issue), but once the members of the Women’s Institute welcomed us into their unique life of jam making, crocheting and talks on the benefits of broccoli, all became settled. The songs (beautifully written by Gary Barlow, with script by Tom Firth) were delivered well and we – the impatient and equally intrigued audience – were ‘hooked’.
The story of the friends who, through the traumatic loss of Annie’s husband, (the afore mentioned John) become local celebrities, by daringly being part of a nude calendar, is both endearing and heart-breaking – the songs (sang spectacularly by the very talented Kat Hewish – Annie) had me physically in tears, as she sang of the fear of losing and then grieving her beloved husband and conversely outright hysterical , thanks to the daring and impressive talent of every member of the female ensemble. When Jessie sang “what age expects of you” I was transfixed as I sat with my 89-year-old mother – an excellent rendition by the talented Caireen Candlin. Each member portrayed their unique character with ease and endeared us to their small community, showing how they got through each day, with the support of whacky friends.
The story builds up into a crescendo of delight and screams of laughter, the stage set was effective, the songs delivered with flair (great numbers by Hayley Dale and Lindsey Darker) and the whole ensemble including the gifted youngsters Jack Darker, Maisie Smith and George Swift, supported the main cast superbly. We endured their pain and suffering, their fear and embarrassment and their joy and euphoria. The rollercoaster of emotions left each of us spellbound.
I want to say – well done. Well done for taking the risk, for pushing the boundaries, for making me cry, with sorrow and laughter and for bringing this legendary film to life on this Runcorn stage with such passion, genius and resilience. This was the first night – but no nerves showed, the cast were faultless and the audience – the whole packed house – were on their feet applauding madly in recognition at the end of this brilliant show. The cast should be very proud of this achievement. I wasn’t sure if this could be done – but Donna Dale you and your wonderful cast did it with ease! Don’t take my word for it – come and see this entertaining show while you can!
The show is on at the Brindley Theatre from Wednesday 26th – Saturday 29th October 2022 at 7.30pm. Full price: £19.00 (All prices include booking fees), https://tickets.thebrindley.org.uk/
Reviewer: Jan Mellor
Reviewed: 26th October 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★