Calendar Girls by The Tamaritans at The Drum, Plymouth Theatre Royal
THE last time the Tamaritans took to the stage the show was one for theatre buffs. Now they are back with theatre in the buff.
My Mother Said I Never Should, which they put on last autumn, is the kind of work that students of the stage pore over.
By contrast Calendar Girls casts off the complexities of narrative gymnastics in favour of more immediate ways of grabbing the attention of the audience.
There's the heart-tugging themes of cancer and fluctuating friendships. Plus stripping.
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The play, and the successful film before it, is based on the true story of a group of Yorkshire Women's Institute members who produced a nude calendar to raise money for Leukaemia Research.
In a satisfying twist, the Tamaritans are doing likewise – they have put together a naked calendar partly in aid of the same cause.
But before that comes the show in the Drum, the Theatre Royal Plymouth's second space, from February 5-9.
As with the female-dominated My Mother Said, Calendar Girls is a gift for any am dram group that has more women than men at its disposal.
Rebekah Ash – who directed the previous show – returns to acting as Chris, the WI member who has the idea of a cheeky calendar to raise funds in memory of the husband of her best friend, Annie (Catherine Teague).
WI organist and shop owner Cora is played by Mavis Clooke and Doreen Sutton is retired teacher Jessie.
Matt Brown takes the role of calendar photographer Lawrence while WI chairwoman Marie is played by Sally Buswell, Major's wife Celia by Mia Rees and Ruth by Ruth Thomas
Making sure that the audience gets the picture but not an eyeful is easy for a film director who can cut and edit. That process is more challenging in live theatre.
"It is a very difficult play to do," says director Niall Clinton.
"Showing the making of the calendar is a challenge. We are still working on that.
"The trick is to make the women appear more nude than they really are with clever use of props.
"The timing is very important as well. You have to be quick and efficient to preserve modesty.
"It is a play with lots of women on stage all the time, quite often in an excited state.
"It is very easy to get carried away. They might look they are running around everywhere and anywhere but it has to be precise. To show chaos effectively you have to have a lot of order."
If you enjoy the show you can spend next year with them all.
The Tamaritans' Alternative Calendar Girls 2014 Calendar, filled with photos of the players out of costume, will be on sale in the foyer at every performance.