The Uffington Players: Oct 30th-Nov 2nd Uffington Village Hall.

A date with the Calendar Girls Calendar Girls is a well known tale, popular and as warm as a favourite blanket, but nevertheless still a brave task for amateur groups to take and for a posse of women to bare all (practically) in front of a full-house of 200+ locals.

The story centres around the relationship between Chris and Annie, whose husband John is diagnosed and sadly dies of cancer. Through the wish to raise money for a settee in the hospital where John died, the girls raise the funds and the blood pressure of some when they decide to produce a naked, or nude they prefer, calendar starring themselves.

Well directed by Vern Dunkley who doubled up as the character John, Mr Dunkley teased some polished performances from his cast, especially his co-director and wife Lilly Dunkley who played Chris convincingly with a passion and grace clearly enjoying every minute she was on stage.

It is often fraught with dangers to both direct and act in a play, but it seemed to have worked rather well here though I wondered about the scene where John passes away and he simply steps up from his wheelchair and walks off. Didn’t quite do it for me. The cast also covered well with the ad libs when the said John failed to come in on cue in one scene. I love amateur dramatics.

The numerous scene changes in the piece should have been much slicker or carried out either in near total darkness or behind the curtains. Having said that the set was simple yet well observed. The hall looked typical of many-a-hall in villages throughout the land. Stark, tired, Victorian even, and the painted backdrop of the Yorkshire Dales was particularly good. Wonder what they are doing with it after the show? Well done Jimpy Church and crew.

Unfortunately the real Uffington village hall, like many nowadays, has a high-pitched roof and this adds significantly to the loss of many a line from the cast. Not all the words lost were down to the hall some cast members did forget their lines but in fairness it was a rare instance.

Janie Eyre-Brook played John’s wife Annie admirably well. The part calls for an actress who can come across as a strong yet vulnerable woman who although her life has been shattered still keeps her pride and sense of humour. Ms Eyre-Brook did just that.

The supporting W.I. members, loud Cora, ably played by Charlotte Holley, shy Ruth (Sam Beynon), Celia (Jo Marshall) and Jessie (Chris Butler) all made sure the pace was kept up with the sparkling camaraderie evident between the ladies.

Karen Irving played branch head girl, Marie, and although a little flat in the first half of the production blossomed beautifully later in the proceedings when she has a bust-up with Chris.

I particularly liked the part portrayed by James Broadbent as the nervous photographer Lawrence yet clearly relishing the thought of his task of snapping a bevy of near naked women. Excellent.

This remarkable play by Tim Firth did move along well and despite an over long interval the very funny script is packed with cracking lines and pathos producing a roller coaster ride for the audience who clearly enjoyed the experience judging by the ovation at the end of the affair.

The one scene that didn’t work at all was the finale of the sunflowers blossoming on John’s hill. Instead of the set preparation being carried out behind the curtain and them opening to a spectacular blaze of colour, the audience witnessed the flowers being brought on and set on the stage before the final scene, shame, a chance lost there methinks.

The Uffington Players also actually produced a calendar of their cast in costume or rather without them. On sale during the evening with proceeds going to charity, nice touch I thought