It would be an oft used cliché to say that Abbey Theatre Club’s latest show brought a tear to the eye, but in this case it did, and lots of them.
Their production of ‘The Calendar Girls’ by Tim Firth opened on Friday and runs until tomorrow (Saturday) at the Abbey Theatre on East Abbot Street and is a masterpiece of runaway emotions, with gut-wrenching heart-ache sitting side by side with life-affirming laughter and friendship.
It is a true life story of a group of brave WI members from Yorkshire who shed their clothes and their inhibitions to produce a nude calendar to raise money for a new sofa in the relatives’ room of the local hospital’s cancer wing.
It charts the highs and lows of this band of sisters, and credit where it is due, the ladies had some great on stage chemistry.
Susan Robertson brought a fragile sweetness with a steely core to her role as Annie, who loses her husband, John (Geoff Bray), to leukaemia.
There were more than a few sobs at Geoff’s portrayal of the brave John, especially during his eulogy on the glory of sunflower seeds.
Cath Eddie captured the essence of Chris, Annie’s flighty and attention-seeking best friend who loses sight of the reason for their calendar and is swept along by the fame.
Pat McInroy delivers her acerbic one-liners with style as Cora, the church organ playing single mother with daughter issues.
Pam Ruxton has great fun with the role of Celia, the well to-do lady with a healthy disregard for her stuck up peers in the golf club.
Irene Lindsay gives her character Jessie, the retired school teacher a great mischievous side and Ruth (Brenda Reid) is perfect as the downtrodden spouse who finally fights back.
Hilary Tasker successfully gives Marie, Knapely WI leader, a nice mix of snobbery and hypocrisy and Sheila Ratcliffe had a couple of nice cameos as the super-posh Lady Cravenshire.
Linda Patterson has a nice turn as the queen of broccoli-based facts, Brenda Hulse and Lex Sawley cleverly incorporated the traditional Abbey Theatre raffle into her role as WI chairwoman.
Alan Johnston was on form as Chris’ husband Rod and Lawrence (Darren Paul Handy) wasn’t just the right shade of bashful for the nude photography.
Heather Reid was suitably condescending as the ‘other woman’ Elaine and producer Alan Christison was amusingly cynical as Liam the commercial producer.
The backstage crew again made fantastic use of their limited space, and John’s Hill was a particularly lovely backdrop.
Alan should be congratulated not only for his casting but for his crafty staging which for the sake of decency left plenty to the imagination. All in all, the Abbey Theatre Club’s ‘Calendar Girls’ was a heart-warming and poignant evening.