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Life imitates art as amateur group stages Calendar Girls
Buy this photo » Back, from left, Chris Butler, Vern Dunkley, Tim Butler, Chris Rayner, Annette Rayner; front, from left, Lilly Dunkley and Charlotte Holley who are all involved in a production of Calendar Girls at Uffington Memorial Hall
IT’S a story of how tragedy inspired a group of friends to help others.
Now life is imitating art for an amateur dramatics group set to put on their own production of the comedy Calendar Girls.
The movie and West End show is about a Women’s Institute group who strip for a charity calendar after the cancer death of a friend.
Uffington Players have now been moved to stage the production after the cancer diagnoses of two of the women’s husbands.
Cash raised from next week’s production, including a £5 risqué calendar, will go to Cancer Research UK.
Lilly Dunkley, who plays Chris, a character played by Helen Mirren in the 2003 movie, had the idea.
She said the lymphoma diagnosis of Tim Butler and Chris Rayner, who are both involved in the show, made her think of the popular production.
The 60-year-old said: “It is very poignant to have the chance to recognise that and raise money for them.
“Two years ago one of our founder members, Adrian Dunn, died of colon cancer so it is all very much in our minds.”
Mrs Dunkley, who admits to being “very nervous” about the nude scene, said: “Chris and his wife Annette are really good friends in the village and his diagnosis hit us hard. It all seems like it is the right time and the right thing to be doing.”
Retired technical manager Mr Rayner, 63, was diagnosed with mantle cell lymphoma in January after finding a lump in his neck. It has not required treatment.
The dad-of-two, who plays Ciarán Hinds’ character Rod, said: “It is touching but I wouldn’t want to do it if the play wasn’t good anyway. It is very much put on by the ladies.”
Dad-of-three teenagers Mr Butler, 51, said: “I was quite flattered when they talked about it.
“It does galvanise people to think around the common cause and what can be done to make it offset some of its pain.”
Freelance consultant Mr Butler, the show’s photographer, had surgery to remove a lump in his neck, chemotherapy and radiotherapy and is now clear of the cancers.
Mr Butler, whose wife Christine plays Annette Crosbie’s character Jessie, said: “The response of people has been fantastic.
“People who I didn’t know very well were offering me lifts to hospital.”
The original calendar girls dedicated their work to John Baker, married to Angela, who died from lymphoma in 1998 aged 54.
The play runs from Wednesday to Saturday at 7.30pm at Uffington Village Hall.
Tickets are available from Uffington Post Office, Broad Street and on 01367 820221 and uffingtonplayers. ticketsource.co.uk
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