Sunday, February 17, 2013

CALENDAR GIRLS

Written by Tim Firth
Directed by Catherine Hill
Canberra Repertory, Theatre 3, February 15 to March 2

Review by Len Power



Good comedy has drama just below the surface.  Tim Firth’s play, ‘Calendar Girls’, based on the movie of the same name, is funny, moving and very, very real.

Canberra Rep’s production, directed by Catherine Hill, tells the true story of a group of women who are members of a Yorkshire village Womens’ Institute.  When the husband of one of them dies of leukemia, the women devise an unusual fund-raiser in his memory.  Their actions unexpectedly produce self-doubt and strained friendships.

Anne Yuille, Naone Carrel, Nikki-Lynne Hunter, Paul Jackson, Liz de Totth, Elaine Noon, Megs Skillicorn
At the core of this production is the excellent ensemble playing of Naone Carrel, Liz de Totth, Elaine Noon, Anne Yuille, Nikki-Lynne Hunter and Megs Skillicorn..  There are no caricatures here.  Their interaction with each other is precise and believable.  Judi Crane as Marie, the head of this Womens’ Institute, artfully plays a sour old dragon who eventually shows she’s a real person after all.  Jonathan Garland gives a very moving performance as the doomed husband, John, and the initially ill-at-ease photographer of Paul Jackson is nicely done.  Good support is provided in well-played cameos by Rob De Fries, Rebecca Butler, Linda Tregonning, Tracy Thomas and Sam Hannan-Morrow.

Paul Jackson and Naone Carrel
The set, designed by Russell Brown, captures the atmosphere of a faded church hall and changes cleverly into an important outdoor setting.  Costume designer, Miriam Miley-Read, has provided the cast with a practical and appealing set of costumes, particularly for the Womens’ Institute group who require multiple costume changes.  They really look like the clothes those characters would wear.  Sound design by Jonathan Pearson includes good choices of snatches of tunes that complement the action and the expert lighting design is by Stephen Still.

Elaine Noon and Liz de Totth

Karin Einhaus, in charge of properties backstage, must be one of the busiest people of the night, co-ordinating the large number of items that need to go on and off the stage.  It all happened smoothly, thanks to her and the skilled stage crew who smoothly and quickly made the onstage changes happen, mostly in very low light.

Megs Skillicorn and Nikki-Lynne Hunter

Catherine Hill, the director, has done a great job with her cast, producing one of the finest examples of ensemble playing that I’ve seen in a long time.  Her incisive direction of the important calendar photographs scene creates a memorable end to the first act.  The positive audience reaction to this scene on opening night was extraordinary and well-deserved.  In a second act that could be anti-climactic in the wrong hands, the director keeps the pace moving so that our interest in these people never flags.  Catherine Hill’s direction brings out the warmth, wit and humanity of a good play which covers universal issues we can all relate to.

Photos by Len Power

Broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 on 'Dress Circle' Sunday 17 February 2013

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