REVIEW: Calendar Girls at Riverhead Theatre

I HAVE seen a lot of high quality material on the Riverhead Theatre’s stage lately, with most of it being by Louth Playgoers. Consequently, I went into Calendar Girls with high expectations and a somewhat ruthless attitude.

Calendar Girls is nothing short of incredible. Seriously. The tirelessly hard work by Maureen Lill (Director), Jerry Smith (Assistant Director) and Frances Brindle (Producer) has led to an evening of brilliant entertainment.

The atmosphere in the audience was immense as the emotional roller coaster journeyed on, telling the tale of the ladies from the Knapely Women’s Institute as they try to raise funds for a new sofa for the hospital’s visitor lounge. This is all done in memory of Annie Clarke’s husband, John, who dies from leukaemia.

It’s certainly a gripping ride too. From the hilarious opening Tai Chi session, to the saddening death of John Clarke, and the beautiful conclusion - the whole show is a privilege to have watched.

Naming outstanding individuals from the cast would be an unfair task – every single cast member is convincing, rousing, unique and faultless. Being completely honest, the casting falls nothing short of the most recent professional production of Calendar Girls that I saw earlier in the year.

A concern for many is that, due to the nature of the show, it is easy for the audience to fall into an uncomfortable feeling if the cast show any awkwardness or reservation during the photography scene. The great news is that the cast gel exceptionally and there is superb chemistry evident among them throughout not just this part, but every other scene too.

And it is the remarkably smooth photography scene that keeps the audience in stitches with classic one-liners and swift transitions - again showing off both the tremendous directing and casting.

In fact, the entire show will make you laugh and it will make you think, but most of all, the tear that glides down your cheek at the end of the show will speak volumes on how compelling Calendar Girls is.

As expected, the backstage departments and technical teams have given the show one hundred percent energy and dedication, resulting in a technically sound and well-crafted masterpiece.

Louth is an extremely lucky town to have such a performance on offer. If you haven’t got tickets, you need to get yourself on the reserve list. Trust me. Don’t miss this.

Review by Stuart Spendlow.