Theatre review: Calendar Girls

MONTHLY TREAT: Calendar Girls, presented by the Auckland Theatre Company, is on at The Civic until August 20.
MONTHLY TREAT: Calendar Girls, presented by the Auckland Theatre Company, is on at The Civic until August 20.

The Yorkshire accents weren't bad, the comedy was enough to make you laugh out loud and there was just enough naked skin to keep the men in the audience happy. Yes, Calendar Girls at The Civic theatre was a good way to spend a night in Auckland this weekend.

I had difficult telling people I was going to Calendar Girls on a Friday night in Auckland as I had to keep mentioning that it was the play, aimed more at middle-aged women, rather than the Karangahape Rd club - probably aimed more at middle-aged men.

The Civic Theatre was packed to the gunwales with mostly, lets admit it, middle-aged women and their partners.

But I, far from a middle-aged women, found myself often laughing out loud, or at least giggling at the individual characters, and was left feeling relaxed and familiar with the characters by the end of it all.

I almost wanted to jump on to the stage and hug character Annie Clarke - played sensitively by Theresa Healey - but, thankfully, I refrained.

The play, brought over to New Zealand after rave reviews in the UK,  tells the story of a branch of the Women's Institute and it's members' bare-all calendar aimed at raising money for the Leukaemia Research Fund.

Most people will remember the story from the film and this adaptation fits well with the theatre.

It was turned into a play in 2008 by Tim Firth who also wrote the film's screenplay. It has had successful showings with theatre-goers in Greece, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Russia, Poland and Germany.

The lead actors in this New Zealand version were Theresa Healey, Alison Quigan, Kate-Louise Elliott, Jennifer Ludlam, Hera Dunleavy, Catherine Downes, Adam Gardiner, Andrew Grainger and Harry McNaughton. And yes, I have to admit that the Shortland Street actors were the ones I was most familiar with.

The casting, by director Colin McColl was, I thought, perfect.

Particularly Cora played by Kate-Louise Elliott whose bum-waggling antics had the crowd roaring for most of the night.

And Rima Te Wiata who played Lady Cravenshire, the guest speaker on broccoli at the institute and the beautician/ slapper was outrageously funny. 

The story starts and ends with the characters pulling silly meditation poses and in between its scenes are mostly set in the modestly decorated room of the Women's Institute -  save for a couple of times when they are in the sunflower patch much loved by Clarke's husband.

Nudity is kept to a minimum with strategically placed cupcakes, pianos, flowers, knitting etc, making it a great play to go to with a group of friends, your mother or even the whole family.

If you are looking for a heart-warming, funny and, at times, tear-jerking play, Calendar Girls ticks all of those boxes.

Calendar Girls is presented by the Auckland Theatre Company is on at The Civic Theatre until August 20 before heading to Hamilton's Founders Theatre on August 26 and 27, and Baycourt Theatre in Tauranga from 1-3 September.

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