Last production

Bartholomew Players' latest production, performed at Eynsham Village Hall from Wed 27 Nov to Sat 30 May 2013, was Calendar Girls - by Tim Firth. 

What the critics said
"...Tackling the mundane, yet disturbing, subject matter of the ‘Big C’, Calendar Girls is sensitively written, neatly directed and performed with life-affirming zest. The cast relish their lines and the chance of some discreet nudity .... The play begins with the Knapely WI women seeming to enjoy jam and Jerusalem, but clearly tired of the likes of talks on themes as tedious as broccoli by well-meaning Brenda (Tina Black). When John (Gareth Hammond, who also directs this production), husband of WI member Annie (a convincingly anguished Lisa Tyler) is diagnosed with cancer, the group rally round to raise money for a comfy settee for the hospital to spare waiting relatives from lumbago. John’s demise is one of several truly moving moments in this performance, making good use of sound and light courtesy of the Players’ technical team (Tony Robinson, Graham Diacon, Debi Lisburne Diacon). Feisty Chris (Gillian Somerscales, who steals several scenes) appoints herself project manager with gusto. But the group have to keep their plans secret from prim chairwoman Marie (Liz Hutchinson, amusingly snooty throughout) and Lady Cravenshire (the regal Trisha Leopold). The cast convey a real sense of comradeship as they prepare to bare all. While diva-like Celia (Denise Santilli) looks forward to the limelight, blushing English rose Ruth (Claire Johnson) and outspoken rock-chick Cora (Amy Stammers) need a few swigs of vodka before they disrobe in front of bashful photographer Lawrence (Sean Moore). The play has some fun with challenging stereotypes – ex-teacher Jessie (Lesley Riding) discovers her raunchy side, for example. Comedy moments to chuckle over include a mistake involving a boy band and fir cones, and a spat with a beautician (a pouting Katie Reeves). However, the play would be enjoyably cheeky, but lightweight were it not for the way the tone suddenly changes abruptly, such as when Annie challenges Chris about her real motivation for the publicity drive or when Chris’ husband Rod (a steadfast Steve Ashcroft) seems marginalised as he struggles to keep the family business afloat. The Players have excelled themselves with a realistic set and striking painted scenery. Meanwhile John’s beloved sunflowers (“satellite dishes for sunshine”) come into their own at the close of this life-affirming of the group’s most successful productions of recent years" Paul Stammers, Oxford Daily Info

"...what a triumph for Bartholomew Players! I have been reviewing their plays for many years and they have just got better and better.

The six conspirators in the ‘calendar’ gelled very well together, whilst displaying the differences in their characters. The opening with Cora (Amy Stammers) singing a very confident solo of ‘Jerusalem’ really set the scene. She went on to give a very spirited performance as the single mother, vicar’s daughter. Gillian Somerscales played Chris, the main driver of the ‘calendar’ with conviction. She did, however speak a little too quickly, which meant that some of her comic lines were lost. Annie (Lisa Tyler) the wife of John Clarke, played the role quietly and under-stated, yet with humour, which was very effective. Gareth Hammond, who directed the play excellently, had the cameo role of John, whose deterioration in health was very cleverly portrayed with brilliant makeup. Although it is ‘Movember’, Gareth took the bold step to shave off his moustache for the part! Jessie, the matriarch of the conspirators (Lesley Riding) was very convincing with good comedy timing, being swathed in wool and knitting whenever the opportunity presented itself. Ruth (Claire Johnson) was bubbly and a good addition to the ‘calendar’ models, being reluctant at first and then changing her mind. Celia (Denise Santilli) was confident in being one of the ring leaders of the project and anxious to show off her wares. The WI Chairman Marie (Liz Hutchinson) was deliciously po-faced throughout and sycophantic with a forced accent to Lady Cravenshire, (Trisha Leopold). She could have made more of her ‘fainting’ moment of glory at the end of Act 1. Brenda (Tina Black) who was giving her talk, could have been a little clearer, even though she was being superbly dull in her follow-up to the ‘History of the Tea Towel’. Some of the lines were lost, however, in the attempts at Yorkshire accents, which overall were very good.

It is unusual to have all the male roles as supporting, but those who portrayed them did a grand job. Steve Ashcroft, as Rod, Chris’s husband had good comedy attack; Sean Moore was convincing as both Rod, the shy photographer and Liam, the director of the advert shoot. Mention must be made of Katie Reeves who worked tirelessly as Stage manager, changing scenes and also played Elaine the beautician with great comedy timing.

The Christmas carol scene was very well done, with good humorous effect and the sunflower seed sowing was sensitively handled. The main photo-shoot was superbly carried out and well directed with ingenious cover-ups. The whole cast looked as though they were enjoying themselves, which went a long way in making this a production to remember.

The set was very good and skilfully changed. The lighting was very good and the sound was superb, with many music cues being picked up well.

A packed first night audience thoroughly enjoyed the play and rightly so. Congratulations to all involved" Nigel James, Oxford Drama Network


 Chris Gillian Somerscales
 Annie Lisa Tyler
 Cora Amy Stammers
 Jessie Lesley Riding
 Celia Denise Santilli
 Ruth Claire Johnson
 Marie Liz Hutchinson
 Brenda Hulse Tina Black
 John Gareth Hammond
 Rod Steve Ashcroft
 Lady Cravenshire Trisha Leopold
 Lawrence Sean Moore
 Elaine Katie Reeves
 Liam Sean Moore
 Director Gareth Hammond

Pictures from the production can be seen in the Archives.