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Calendar Girls world first at Grassington
10:34am Thursday 6th September 2012 in News
The Calendar Girls have returned home.
The story of a group of WI ladies, who stripped for a charity calendar, was brought to the stage by Grassington Players in the first amateur performance of the hit play.
And everyone agreed the local thespians had done the Calendar Girls proud.
It was back in 1998 that the alternative calendar was first suggested by Rylstone WI in a bid to cheer up national park officer John Baker as he battled against cancer. It only became a reality after he died and, since then, the story has raised nearly £3 million for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research.
The original Calendar Girls - including John’s widow, Angela - were present at the opening night in Grassington Town Hall on Friday.
Lynda Logan, who was the original Miss July and whose husband, Terry, took the calendar pictures, said although they had been doubtful about the play being staged so close to home, they had been pleasantly surprised.
“It was done sympathetically and beautifully and, to be honest even though we have seen it so many times before, performed by professional actors, I liked it more than any. It was absolutely excellent.”
Director Ed Williams said putting together the show had been very hard work.
“It was very emotional and has, probably, been the hardest play I have ever directed. - not so much from the point of view of telling the story, but because of the technical side. The scene where the photos are being taken and the ladies are nude required lots of props.”
Mr Williams said he had not felt extra pressure because the story was being told on home ground.
“The Calendar Girls are friends and, before I agreed to do it, I met up with Angela. After the opening night, they all hugged and kissed me.”
At the after-show party, Mr Williams was presented with an award by the play’s writer Tim Firth. “Although it was given to me, I see it as an award for the whole production and everyone’s efforts,” said Mr Williams.
Cast member Jane Ellison-Bates, who plays widow Annie Clarke, said: “The show came together and had a really special magic. Several cast members mentioned how the enthusiasm of the audience lifted them on a wave. It was amazing.
“The atmosphere was absolutely buzzing and we loved the standing ovation the audience gave us. We’re so pleased that the ‘real’ Calendar Girls enjoyed it and have been so complimentary.”
And there was also praise from Cathy Gilman, chief executive of Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research.
In her website blog, she said: “It couldn't have been more fitting that the premiere was in the home of the Calendar Girls, coincidentally a place that Tim Firth frequently visited for family holidays as a child.
“I confess I felt some anxiety for the Players for the enormous task that they had set themselves, performing not only in front of the script writer himself, but also his inspiration, the Calendar Girls. I especially felt anxious for Angela and her family, because although the play is essentially a work of fiction, there is no doubt that it is inspired by the tragedy of John Baker’s death - a much loved husband, father and friend. I needn't have worried, of course there were some very emotional moments (Angela’s granddaughter offered me tissues at one point!), but the Grassington Players gave an extraordinary performance.
“Beautiful direction from Edwin Williams was matched by a supremely talented cast and the authenticity of the location, the Yorkshire accents and the evident love, warmth and affection both for their subject and for each other made this an unforgettable and deeply moving evening.”
The show will be repeated tonight, tomorrow and Saturday.