Susan Rundle has another sold out season with her latest play ‘Calendar Girls’ Amateur Production at Warrandyte Theatre Company. Sorry, since they sold out this Sept/Oct season you can’t see it.
COVID lockdowns postponed the 2020 show until now – but this has been so worth the wait.
Based on a true story, it was made into a film in 2003 with Helen Mirren and Julie Walters. What a fabulous play for mature age women – gutsy roles with many back stories and character growth for several.
It isn’t about a group of middle-aged women making a nude calendar that gains world-wide publicity and accolades; it is about the spirit and personalities of women when they work together to fund raise for a tragic event.
Casting an ensemble is tough to pull off – Susan Rundle has successfully created a marvellous ensemble who take us on a journey of every emotion known to woman. Each actor inhabited their characters to perfection.
We need more of these plays that showcase the richness of older women in society, and older actors in independent theatre. I wish more directors would follow Rundle’s lead on staging opportunities for our mature women actors. NOT that this play is about nudity, but I was struck by how gorgeous they all were, with their props of sweet buns, teapot, knitting, flag, flowers etc. There is something very fetching about these voluptuous beauties and the audience adored them. This production truly honoured these terrific women and reminds us of how amazing women of all ages truly are.
Lisa Upson as Cora
Ana Isabel as Chris
Jeanne Snider as Annie
Louise Phelan as Jessie
Monica Greenwood as Celia
Simone Kiefer as Ruth
Sandi Miller as Marie
Richard Humphries as John
James Poyner as Lawrence
Tony Clayton as Rod
Lisa MacGibbon as Brenda Hulse
Noelene Cooper as Lady Cravenshire
Caitlin Greenwood as Elaine
Ana Isabel as Chris shines with Jeanne Snider with the main roles in this large cast of characters who we can all relate to. They’re funny, angry, sad, and poignant as well as triumphant and inspiring.
While the first act was mainly funny, the second act was a tour de force as the women took us on their journey through the human condition – birth, life, and death with the individual torture of illness, ageing, loss, and confronting the duality of our darkness and light through despair and hope.
The sensitivity and truth of their performances was evident in the audience response. Act Two saw many of us in tears; deeply moved by their portrayal of the human condition.
By Act Two we had come to love these characters, positive & negative traits. Cameos from Noelene Cooper and Caitlin Greenwood worked so well. One of the great scenes was RUTH (Simone Kiefer) and ELAINE (Caitlin Greenwood) preparing for the TV appearance.
Lovely to see the professionals alongside the independent, amateur, returning-after-long-absence, and new actors coalesce into a group of actors. Community theatre at its best.
On a more personal note, independent theatregoers and performers were moved by the play’s dedication to actor/director/set maker Gary Wall first cast as ROD for 2020 who died tragically from a fast cancer onset before he could appear with his actual wife Ana Isabel (CHRIS).
A scene between CHRIS (Ana Isabel) and ANNIE (Jeanne Snider) was an extraordinary piece of brilliant work. In an artistic role reversal of true life, Jeanne played the grieving wife with her friend Ana. In one part of the dialogue, ANNIE set CHRIS back in her box in a scene when she confronted her with what is the most important thing in life, “..don’t you get it? I would give everything – all the money in the world – to have one more moment with my husband… And you can!”
Gary would be proud of Ana; very few actors could deliver a stellar performance given this dialogue and storyline so soon after such a great tragedy. Ana Isabel has surpassed herself – every emotion was palpable and mesmerising. Tears were free flowing in the audience, and even more heartfelt for those of us who knew Ana’s real back story.
Jeanne Snider did her grief and hope to perfection, and truly demonstrated her adroit acting as my husband and I were shocked when we met backstage. On stage she played the age of most of the other women, but in real life she is much younger.
Another stand out was Monica Greenwood as Celia – too funny as a lady with panache! She was spot-on. Indeed, all the women were believable, realistic, and acted true to form.
Louise Phelan’s exits got great laughs, and Lisa Upson was just right with Lisa MacGibbon.
I was in conversation with a Warrandyte local who attends all of their plays. Originally from Yorkshire, she was convinced that ROD (Tony Clayton) was too. “His accent was perfect. Actually, they all did really well with a difficult accent to pull off, but Tony Clayton was so real in accent and acting – just like so many men I knew!”
Review by Meredith Fuller OAM