The plot of Calendar Girls is well known – rebel members of a Yorkshire WI boycott the annual village views calendar to produce an alternative featuring the women in various states of tasteful undress.
All good fun but, there is, of course, a serious message in their calender supporting Leukaemia Research and the personal stories which emerge as the women reveal much more than their bare flesh.
“There’s a lot of laughter in the play, but there’s a lot of sadness too, and that’s what life is really like,” said Harefield Amateur Dramatic Society (HADS) director Tony Keyho, as he prepares to stage the play next week.
Dawn Davies, wife of the Reverend Martin Davies, the vicar of St Mary’s in Harefield, plays Annie Clarke, whose husband is diagnosed with cancer. We see his health deteriorate throughout the play, something Tony says many of us have experienced in real life.
“We’re all touched by it, but the play deals with cancer in such a good way,” he said.
His statements are echoed by Dawn. “My older sister died of bone cancer at 48 and both my younger sister and stepmother are currently in remission,” she said. “Taking part in the show is the least I can do – something positive.”
The proceeds of the performances, plus sales of a calendar featuring the cast, will be shared between local cancer charities the Lynda Jackson Macmillan Centre, Michael Sobell Hospice and the national charity, Leukaemia Research.
“That’s the main reason I agreed to take on the challenge,” said Dawn. “It’s important that we are helping people and not just doing this for entertainment,” she added.
Remembering lines and acting can be challenging when the issues you are dealing with are so close to home.
“At first it was very difficult,” said Dawn. “But now I try to draw on those emotions – the fear and shock I felt – and channel it into playing my part.”
Tony is particularly pleased that Dawn agreed to be a Calendar Girl: “How many other companies can say they’ve got the vicar’s wife to bare all?”
Most women would recoil in horror at the thought of going ‘au naturel’ in front of an audience but Jan Scurr, who plays Jessie, says that is actually the easy part. “We’re used to it now,” she said. “Everyone’s seen everything and it’s easier than stressing about all those costume changes.”
Jan is another cast member with a cancer story, but this time she was the victim. “I’m still here, but my treatment was grim,” she said. “Telling a sad story, close to many people’s hearts but with the right amount of comic relief, is not an easy skill. There’s lots of laughter in the play, but we’ve had a few tears in rehearsals too.”
Calendar Girls is at St Mary’s Church Hall from Tuesday to Saturday next week. Performances are at 7.30pm, with a 3pm matinee on Saturday. Tickets, at £9.50, concessions £7.50, can be purchased by calling 01895 820 672 or emailing email@example.com.