Calendar Girls by Tim Firth was our November 2013 production. It was about to be performed in November 2012, but had to be postponed for one year as a result of flooding at The Mill Arts Centre.
When Annie Clarke’s husband John dies from leukaemia at an early age, her close friend Chris Harper, anxious to purchase a comfortable sofa for the visitors’ lounge in the hospital where he was treated, hits upon the idea of printing a calendar featuring some of the members of the Knapely branch of the Women’s Institute discreetly posing nude while engaged in traditional WI activities, such as baking and knitting, in order to raise funds. Her proposal initially is met with great scepticism, but she eventually convinces ten women to participate in the project with her. They enlist one of the hospital workers, an amateur photographer named Lawrence, to help them with the concept.
The head of the local Women’s Institute branch refuses to sanction the calendar, and Chris and Annie go to a national congress of the Women’s Institute in London to plead their case. They are told the final decision rests with the local leader, who grudgingly agrees to the calendar’s sale. The initial printing quickly sells out, and before long the tiny village is bombarded with members of the international media anxious to report the feel-good story.
The women are invited to appear on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in Los Angeles. While there, tensions arise between Chris and Annie. All the publicity surrounding the calendar has taken a toll on their personal lives, and they lash out at each other in angry frustration. Annie accuses Chris of ignoring her husband and son and the demands of the family business in favour of her newfound celebrity, while Chris believes Annie welcomes the Mother Teresa-like status to which she’s been elevated that allows her to cater to the ill and bereaved who have bombarded her with fan mail. All is resolved eventually, and the women return home to resume life as it was before they removed their clothing.