Women strip off for good cause

20:07, Feb 10 2014
tdn women stand
Ceri Robson and Janna Kerehoma star in Hawera Repertory Society's production of Calendar Girls.

Taking your clothes off on stage is a hard thing for any actor to do, but the memory of a loved one's battle with cancer helps a Hawera woman to take off her top in Calendar Girls.

Janna Kerehoma is at the forefront of the poignant stage story in her lead role as Chris.

The 39-year-old Hawera mother is a teacher aide by day and says undressing on stage is often daunting.

"My husband is not too keen on the idea of me taking my kit off, but once he sees the play on opening night I think he'll relax.

"It's not as bad as everyone is thinking; it's quite tasteful," she says.

Although Kerehoma will be front and centre of the storyline, she did not audition for a role where she had to take her clothes off.


Despite having her heart set on a fully-clothed character, the actress was offered the much larger role of Chris, played by Helen Mirren in the Hollywood blockbuster.

"I just couldn't say no.

"I'm Helen Mirren, or at least that's what I like to tell people," she says.

Part of what helps Kerehoma be comfortable on stage is the confidence her aunt, Jill, instilled in her.

The woman, who was like a second mother to the actress, died of breast cancer not so long ago.

"She would have told me to get in there and have fun. She would have absolutely loved this play."

But Kerehoma still battles nerves, especially in the iconic calendar shoot scenes.

The play is based on the true story of a group of Yorkshire women who released a calendar that took the world by storm.

The women were members of a very ordinary Yorkshire Women's Institute and persuaded one another to pose for a charity calendar with a difference.

Overcoming their initial reserve, the friends dropped their dressing gowns, their modesty spared only by artfully placed cakes, knitting and flower arrangements.

The nude calendar and the women in it became household names overnight.

Four years after the story hit global headlines it was made into a film starring Mirren, and now, a decade after the movie, a bunch of middle-aged women in Hawera will strip off for the theatrical version.

The rights for the play, usually exclusive to professional theatres, are open to amateurs for a strict 18-month window, to raise money for cancer research.

About 20 theatres in New Zealand have taken the opportunity and Hawera Repertory Theatre is the last amateur society in New Zealand to put on the show.

Director Samantha Turner believes the South Taranaki production will be the best of the bunch.

Despite Kerehoma's nerves, Turner thinks her leading lady will be great.

Nerves are a good thing, she says.

"I don't think there is anyone in the cast who is comfortable taking their kit off."

While the ladies will be going topless there won't be any full nudity - the cast will be wearing nude-coloured underpants.

The audience should be left wondering about the nudity, not getting an accidental full gaze of it, Ms Turner says.

The 42-year-old has been on stage since she was 9 and has recently turned her hand to directing.

Calendar Girls is her third play in the director's chair for Hawera Repertory Society, and the first she has directed at the town's Memorial Theatre.

Using a larger stage has been a blessing, but moving the rehearsals into the performance space earlier this month was a big task.

"Then all of a sudden everything happens at once and there's sound and lighting and props," says Turner, who played the Wicked Witch in last year's production of The Wizard of Oz.

Turner isn't the only one who has had to adjust to the new theatre space.

The 13-strong cast of Calendar Girls is joined by about 15 backstage crew and technicians.

Included in the bunch is a troupe of women who help the cast get in and out of their costumes. Ceri Robson, 45, who plays Ruth, says the dressers are a blessing as costume changes are fast paced.

The office manager and mother is playing a mousy and shy character, and she says her on-stage character is not at all like her.

Robson is used to more outrageous roles and has appeared in The Rocky Horror Picture Show as Magenta.

Although Calendar Girls is not a musical, Robson says she wanted to be in the play because she loved the movie so much.

"My husband was OK with me being nude on stage, but my teenage boys were horrified," she says.


THE DETAILS: Calendar Girls Hawera Memorial Theatre February 15-22, 7.30pm

2pm matinee on Sunday

No show on Tuesday

Tickets available from TicketDirect or South Taranaki i-SITE Visitor Centre

Taranaki Daily News