Calendar Girls ★★★ The Mill at Sonning | Apr 11 - Jun 1, 2024

In 1998 some members of the Knapely branch of the Women's Institute decided to do some fundraising for the cancer wing of their local hospital. Their decision to create a calendar in which they posed nude ended up raising a great deal of money for their cause, plus a few eyebrows. Their daring and endearing plan resulted in an enormous amount of press attention and became a worldwide phenomenon. The first act of Tim Firth's play recounts the well-known initiation and realisation of the calendar project. Perhaps, because the story is so familiar this retelling of it, while charming, seems rather thin and the characters' behaviours rather formulaic. For us, things pick up in the second act which deals with the aftermath of the calendar's initial success. Individual characters start to emerge and the varying motivations for being involved are more explicitly exposed and developed. The tensions within the group move the narrative from the realm of amusing anecdote to real drama. It is in the second act that we meet fully rounded human beings who engage us in their stories, and who also give more scope for the formidable cast to display their considerable talents. All of the women have interesting backstories that are beautifully brought to the fore: Sarah Whitlock's feisty retired teacher, Debbie Arnold's conflicted minister's daughter, Ciara Janson's abused people-pleaser, Basienka Blake's social misfit, Natalie Ogle's grieving widow and Rachel Fielding's ambitious go-getter. This is a feel-good piece of theatre that deals with an imaginative and heartwarming response to the grief caused by a loss due to cancer. And, as always, it is worth putting this latest production from The Mill at Sonning on your personal theatrical calendar.

Rated: ★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Andreas Lambis

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When, Where, Getting there:
  • Apr 11 - Jun 1, 2024
  • Wed - Sat: 8:15 pm. Restaurant open: 6:15 pm - 8 pm
  • Sat: 2:15 pm. Restaurant open: 12:15 pm - 2 pm
  • Sun - April 21 & 28, May 12 & 19: 2:15 pm. Restaurant open: 12:15 pm - 2 pm
  • The Mill at Sonning
  • Nearest station: Reading

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