Reviewer: Casidhe Ng
Performance: 10 March 2017
The Stage Club is best known for its consistent track record of putting on notable English plays, but its latest offering sadly adds little more than unrealised potential to its repertoire.
Adapted from Tim Firth’s 2003 movie of the same name, Calendar Girls tells the story of Annie and a group of fellow women from the Knapely Women’s Institute in the UK. It follows their attempt to raise money for Leukemia Research by posing nude for a calendar after Annie’s husband passes away from leukemia.
The production’s greatest strength is undoubtedly the script’s wit and humour – which is especially evident in the first act – with banter and quips at each turn. The highlight is the photo-taking scene, where the cast slowly shed their robes and experiment with props, teasing the audience by treading that thin line between suggestion and seduction. The resulting photos are then projected onto a screen for the audience to savour.
It’s enjoyable to see The Stage Club experimenting with multimedia – whether it’s showcasing those photos or projecting a series of messages detailing the impact the calendar had on the women after its release. They add a tad of emotional impact to the mix, but they also end up occasionally filling in the gaps left by the actors themselves.
The performances of the six central females are serviceable but rarely exceptional. Elena Scherer (who plays Annie) lands a few well-timed emotional beats upon her husband’s death but leaves a sense of untapped potential, while Jane Grafton (who plays Annie’s best friend, Chris) sells her character’s need for attention but rarely ventures beyond that. Dee Allan and Marilyn White fare better in their respective roles as Ruth and Celia, and are evidently more comfortable in their portrayals.
Unfortunately, the fast-paced delivery of lines from the actors and issues with voice projection mean that some opportunities for character development are inevitably lost. The characters also show a lack of individuality in the second act. Atop that, several plot threads in the second act appear underdeveloped and rushed: the stress faced by Annie in the aftermath of the calendar’s release could have been far more impactful, while Ruth’s outburst from her pent-up rage seems unnecessarily restrained.
Nevertheless, the full house on this particular evening is evidence that The Stage Club has retained its audience with its niche plays and distinctive humour. Ultimately, the performance makes for an enjoyable (if forgettable) evening at the theatre.
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ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
CALENDAR GIRLS by The Stage Club
8 – 12 March 2017
SOTA Studio Theatre
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Casidhe Ng is currently serving the nation but takes time out of his civilian hours for theatre.