Review: Calendar Girls - King's Theatre, Glasgow

Baring all in Glasgow for one final time, Calendar Girls has an all-star cast featuring Lynda Bellingham, Debbie Chazen, Camilla Dallerup, Jennifer Ellison, Jan Harvey, Rula Lenska, June Watson and Ruth Madoc with Bruno Langley playing Lawrence the photographer and Joe McGann as John.

For the uninitiated, like me, who haven't seen the film of the same name, Calendar Girls is based on the true story of the efforts of the WI in Carcoe, Yorkshire who rallied together to raise funds for the Leukaemia Research Fund when local resident, John Baker, was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. Tim Frith's moving dramatisation is an emotional rollercoaster. Infused with enough British humour to offset the heartbreaking reality of the all too familiar story on stage, the audience is effortlessly swept from crying to laughing and, importantly, without it jarring. As the illness takes hold of John, Joe McGann's transformation is both shocking and poignant. It is a haunting reminder of how ruthless the disease is and stays with you long after the curtain falls. Jan Harvey's portrayal of Annie, John's widow, highlights the devastation leukaemia leaves in its wake sensitively and acknowledges the agony of grief without apology. Harvey is brilliant in a role that must be emotionally exhausting to portray night after night.
Although impossible to forget the loss and the man who inspired the calendar, the real stars of the play are the formidable women of the WI. All of the characters are lovable and I’m sure that everyone knows a Chris, Celia, Jessie and, sadly, Annie who is John’s widow. June Watson is scene-stealing as Jessie, Lynda Bellingham is a tour de force as Chris and Ruth Madoc is perfectly cast as the overbearing Chair of the WI, Marie.

In an ensemble piece like this, it is difficult to highlight individuals when the group chemistry delivers on so many levels. It speaks volumes about the capable cast that it's difficult to believe that they haven't been friends for years, catching up weekly at the WI, sniggering at slide shows about broccoli and their joyous portrayal of true friendship is incredibly moving but also provides much of the British humour that is the lifeblood of the play.

As this is the last time the show will be in Glasgow, make sure you don't miss out on sharing this moving and British experience that has become a global phenomenon. Don't forget to bring your tissues and give what you can to the Leukaemia Research charity collectors on the way out. Calendar Girls is a fitting reminder that there is still a lot of work to be done to tackle cancer and the original calendar girls from Carcoe have successfully raised over £3 million to date for Leukaemia Research.

Wed 31 Aug – Sat 3 September
Mon - Sat eves 7.30pm
Wed & Sat matinees 2.30pm
Running time approx 2hrs and 20min
Box Office 08448 717 648 (Bkg fee) (bkg fee)
Tickets bought in person at the theatre box office do not carry a booking fee.