Oh! The bare-faced cheek of it: Release of amateur rights to stage 'Calendar Girls' sparks record


Some are remembering loved ones; others are driven by naked ambition to perform. Whatever the motivation, thousands of women are rushing to strip off on the public stage in the coming months.

Next month's release of the amateur rights to stage Calendar Girls has sparked unprecedented interest from theatre groups. "It's wonderful all these ladies are doing it. But, at the same time, I think there might be a few upset and over-jealous and protective husbands and a few embarrassed sons and daughters out there," said David Pugh, co-producer of the play, a professional staging of which goes on tour from September. The involvement of a few vicars' wives has not gone down "totally well" with parishes, he added.

Tim Firth's 2008 play – and preceding 2003 hit film – is based on the ladies of Rylstone and District WI who posed naked for a 2000 calendar in aid of Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research (L&LR) after the death of John Baker, the husband of Angela, a member, from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The Grassington Players, of which Mr Baker was house manager, will perform the amateur premiere on 31 August.

"In a way, the amateur spirit of giving it a go is the closet parallel to the spirit of the original women doing the calendar," said Mr Firth.

Such was the demand to stage the play that producers extended the release window from 12 to 18 months after realising some groups were "fighting over" the same venues. Samuel French London, which holds the amateur rights, has received 520 applications from groups wanting to perform the play to date and issued 322 licences. Vivien Goodwin, the managing director, said the company had "never experienced anything like this" for a play, partly because of the limited release.

The producers hope to establish a Guinness World Record for the most productions of one play in a twelve-month period, with a percentage of performance fees going to L&LR.

The Two Rivers Theatre Company's production at Sir John Mills Theatre, Ipswich, in September will see Valerie King, 75, a retired accounts clerk from Ipswich, make her acting debut as "Jessie". Her husband, Peter, left the company £1,500 when he died from lung cancer two years ago.

"I went to see Calendar Girls in Southend and my sister, Kay Friars, said she'd like to direct this, but would I be in it …? I'd like to think Peter's sitting up there thinking: 'I'm really proud of her'. "

Llanelli Little Theatre's shows at the Lyric Theatre in Carmarthen in September are being co-directed by interior designer Kathy Bowen, 49, of Llanelli, Carmarthenshire. She also stars as "Chris".

"I actually find directing more nerve-racking, because when you aren't on stage you can't control what's going on. The naked scene is such a giggle. Every time I look at the poster for the play I can't believe that it's me. I'm not too nervous now, but ask me again how I'm feeling on opening night!"

The prospect of starring as "Chris" with Stourbridge Theatre Company at Stourbridge Town Hall Theatre in November prompted midwife Maria Lodge, 50, of Stourbridge, West Midlands, to lose a stone in weight.

"I am hoping to lose another stone before the show. I used to be very fit and the play has encouraged me to get back into shape. I have a few weddings to go to … but the play was the biggest motivator. We won't be too exposed on stage, but you still want to look your best."

Among the Kingswood Players to be stripping off is retired midwife Kate Bond, 61, of Whitehall, Bristol. Her husband, Richard, 63, a credit controller, is directing their shows at Kingswood Community Centre, Bristol, in October.

"One of Cora's lines is, 'If I don't get them out now, when am I going to?' and, at 61, I thought, 'Yeah, that's very true' … I put my two-pence worth in sometimes [at rehearsals], but Richard tells me to keep quiet. He's the boss there, but not necessarily at home!"

Jane Ellison-Bates, 48, who works in PR and marketing, plays "Annie" in Grassington Players' amateur premiere at the Town Hall, Grassington, North Yorkshire, on 31 August. Her partner, sales director Mark Bamforth, 52, the son of the original Miss January, Beryl Bamforth, plays "John".

"Normally when you take a role … the only guidance is your gut feeling, what you get from the script and what your director might say, whereas … I have actually got the person on whom that character is based [Angela] who I can talk to"

Retired teacher Kathy Firth, 74, mother of the Calendar Girls writer, Tim Firth, will play retired teacher "Jessie" in Stockton Heath Methodist Dramatic Society's production at the Cheshire village's Methodist Hall in November. Her husband Gordon, 76, also a retired teacher, is designing the set.

"It's lovely saying Tim's words that have become so familiar. One of Jessie's speeches about ageing, ever since the play went out, I have had those words on my kitchen wall; they mean a lot to me."

Medical secretary Julie Potter, 46, of New Hartley, is playing "Annie" alongside her sister, Diane Legg, as "Celia", in memory of their brother, Brian Heslop, who died from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 1995. They will perform with the Whitley Bay Theatre Company at the Playhouse, Whitley Bay, Tyne and Wear, in September.

"It is both difficult and therapeutic …. Sometimes I just have to shut out my own memories to get through rehearsals because there are a lot of emotional scenes, but the whole cast are supportive."

Finance officer Alex Rolle, 45, of Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, who is playing "Ruth", joined EHOS purely so that she could be in Calendar Girls at Broxbourne Civic Theatre in September.

"I am quite a big lady and wanted to try to do something that inspired other people to try to step out of their comfort zone. I have a 16-year-old daughter, Victoria, who has a poor self-body image because of weight issues and I am sick and tired of people saying, 'I can't do this – whatever this might be – until I've reached a certain weight'."

Monica McTurk, 57, a speech and language therapist living with her farmer husband John, 58, eight miles outside Port William, Dumfries and Galloway, is "Cora" in Port William Pantomime Company's November shows at Maxwell Hall.

"I don't really do amateur dramatics and I find I am not only actually doing this but taking my kit off …. The [Dumfries and Galloway NHS] staff are threatening to have their Christmas night out coming to see the boss on stage. I'm hoping I can dissuade them."

Cheltenham's Playhouse Theatre will host Cheltenham Operatic and Dramatic Society, including marketing manager and new mum Joanne Alexander, 35, in September.

"I'm playing "Celia", the one with significantly bigger buns … I've been very lucky because my husband, Stewart, is very supportive. I'm on maternity leave until October and I thought it would be a great way to be able to have a bit of 'me time', so he is looking after [three-month-old] Phoebe while I go to rehearsals."

Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

Arts and Entertainment
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

Arts and Entertainment
Panic! In The Disco's Brendon Urie performs on stage

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

    The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

    What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
    Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

    Finding the names for America’s shame

    The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
    Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

    Inside a church for Born Again Christians

    As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
    Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
    Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

    Incredible survival story of David Tovey

    Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little