Bartholomew Players' latest production, performed at Eynsham Village Hall from Wed 27 Nov to Sat 30 May 2013, was Calendar Girls - by Tim Firth.
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
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 comedy...one of the group’s most
successful productions of recent years" Paul Stammers, Oxford Daily Info
triumph for Bartholomew Players! I have been reviewing their plays
for many years and they have just got better and better.
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.
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.
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
was very good and skilfully changed. The lighting was very good and
the sound was superb, with many music cues being picked up well.
first night audience thoroughly enjoyed the play and rightly so.
Congratulations to all involved" Nigel James, Oxford Drama Network