The Calendar is now playing at the Earl Cameron Theatre
The Calendar is now playing at the Earl Cameron Theatre

The Calendar Girls let it all hang out at the opening night of their highly entertaining production.

All six girls carried their partial nudity on stage with pride and grace and seemed visibly liberated by the whole experience.

The play, based on a true story, tells of a Women’s Institute group who come up with an ingenious plan to pose naked for a calendar to raise money for the cancer ward of their local hospital.

The banality of the regular Women’s Institute meetings — including PowerPoint presentations outlining the history of the tea towel or the benefits of broccoli — was blown out of the water by the schoolgirlish banter between them.

You could tell that most of these women have known each other off stage for many years.

As for the nude scenes, some showed more flesh than others — Laura Bardgett as Cora flashed the most when she flipped her dressing gown off showing her bare bottom then sitting at the piano sideways to the stage with just an arm covering her chest. That took real courage. Jo Shane as Celia had the house falling about laughing as she precariously balanced two cupcakes in front of her chest while stretching a smile across her face.

There are some stellar one-liners in the play that really need to be belted out — Carol Birch as Jessie cracked many of her lines like a whip as did Nicola Flood as Chris. Flood also powerfully delivered her speech against the evils of cancer which, off stage, she dedicated to her friend who has the disease.

Monica Dobbie, who was playing her first role in 12 years, seemed like she had never stepped off it. She played the over empathetic, mousey Ruth convincingly and commanded a transformation that culminated in a biting attack on a woman who was having an affair with her husband.

The only “F bomb” in the entire play packed such a punch coming from a character you couldn’t imagine having the backbone to say boo to a goose.

There were some incredibly poignant moments mixed in with the humour that would have hit home for anyone who has lost a loved one through cancer.

Alan Brooks warmed us to the character of John Clark, overcoming the tragedy of contracting cancer with a chirpy nature and poetic outlook on life and the Yorkshire Dales. The love expressed between him and his wife Annie — played by Valerie Smith, was heart warming, while Annie’s grief at his death was heart breaking.

I would say that the girls need to warm up to their performance just a little — getting on stage naked is a big barrier in itself that they need to get used to before they can be completely natural on stage for the entire show. I would guess that after another performance or two they will be stronger and more outgoing.

Newcomer to the stage Tim Stewart as the awkward photographer pulled off a good Yorkshire accent and was a natural on the stage.

I was told that the costume department, notably Barbara Outerbridge, deserves a special mention as they worked with lightening speed to keep up with the numerous dress changes for the six women throughout the show.

Director Janice Howell did well to keep the play current by making some minor adjustments to the script. She also did well to keep the audience from seeing a lot more flesh than they might have bargained for!

If you don’t get down to the show you can still pick up a 2014 calendar featuring these bare beauties for $15 at the shows or through www.bmds.bm, www.chc.bm or http://www.express.bm/BoxOffice/Default.aspx

The proceeds will all go to cancer charities PALS, Bermuda Cancer and Health Centre and Agape House. BMDS is aiming to raise a total of $18k.

Calendar Girls is on again tonight and then from April 17 to 20 at the Earl Cameron Theatre at City Hall.