Cast positively blooming ahead of Calendar Girls curtain up

Duns players get set for Calendar Girls
Duns players get set for Calendar Girls

AS a line in the script goes ‘the last phase of the flower is the most glorious’ and looking to prove that right are six brave women who will bare more than their emotions for Duns Players production of ‘Calendar Girls’ next week.

The true story of a group of WI members who unite after one of them loses their husband to cancer came to prominence after a cast including Helen Mirren and Julie Walters brought it to the big screen.

Their quest to raise money to fund a new settee for the residents room in a hospital cancer ward leads them down the unusual path of posing for a near naked calendar, with their modesty preserved thanks to a number of inanimate objects including flowers, a piano and sticky buns!

The action has since been brought to the stage and for the first time the amateur rights to the play have been made available to raise money for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research.

Duns Players jumped at the chance to bring their take on it to the Volunteer Hall and Shirley Redpath, or Annie to give her her character name, said she was loving every minute of the experience so far.

“We’ve all had an absolute ball; it’s been amazing,” she told ‘The Berwickshire’ just over a week before curtain up.

“It’s a very emotional show to be involved in, there’s been a lot of laughter but also a lot of tears.

“The guy responsible for the script, Tim Firth, has written it so well for women. Some of the speeches we each have are absolutely fantastic. We’ve been rehearsing for weeks now and we still cry at the sad bits.

“We’re in an age now where most people know someone who’s lost their life to cancer so it’s not been hard to draw on the emotion required for the play.

“Although we all knew each other from the Players or Duns Opera, doing ‘Calendar Girls’ has been a real bonding experience and it’s definitely one of the best shows I’ve been involved in.”

And what about the part where Shirley, who runs Number 18 in Duns Market Square, and her castmates have to strip down to next to nothing?

“Most of the time we rehearse fully clothed at The Black Bull but the six of us have done one rehearsal where we’ve been how we’ll be for the calendar shots,” she explained.

“It was a good laugh but by the time it comes to doing it in front of a packed Volunteer Hall it might be a different story!

“I’ve had some interesting comments from people coming into the shop to buy tickets ranging from ‘I’m looking forward to seeing you naked’ to ‘how naked will you go’? There is only the suggestion of nudity - we’re nude rather than naked!”

“The message is that women shouldn’t be embarassed about showing their bodies and there’s a lot more to the play than the bit everyone knows. It’s a real emotional rollercoaster for the cast and the audience. One minute you’re high as a kite from laughing, the next you’re sad but then you’ll be back smiling again.”

Stepping out from behind her desk to play the part of Jessie, chief executive of BHA Homes, Helen Forsyth, said she was glad she auditioned for what she described as a “moving and extremely touching show.”

Co-director Peter Lerpiniere is in the minority as one of only five men involved in the Players latest production, compared to 10 women, but he said it was great for the women involved to have a show with such strong female roles.

“There aren’t that many plays out there which present such a positive view of women,” he commented.

“One of the things that struck me when I saw the play in Edinburgh was how personal it was and I think the relationship between the local audience and the cast on stage will be key to its success in Duns.

“The script has a lot of light and shade and I predict many a tear will be shed.

Tickets for ‘Calendar Girls’, which will begin its three night run on Thursday, September 27 are available from Number 18, priced £7.50/£6 concessions.

And Duns Players have already started work on their 11th production in just over a year, ‘Flare Path’ which will be performed on Armistice Day with proceeds going to the RAF Benovlant Fund.