EARLIER this year, local director Wendy Payn launched a search for six women who would be comfortable with revealing more than your average actress as she put the wheels into motion on Opening Night Productions take on ‘Calendar Girls’.
Her rallying call was answered and now not only are the ladies getting ready to bare almost all on stage, they are preparing to give Cliff Richard, One Direction, Kylie et al a run for their money by releasing their own calendar!
Like many amateur dramatic groups, Opening Night Productions jumped at the chance to bring the Tim Firth script to the stage after it was announced that the rights would be released for a limited period.
And like Duns Players who recently brought the house down with their version of ‘Calendar Girls’, Wendy and her cast are hoping that their four performances next week and their much talked about calendar raise plenty of money for Leukaemia Lymphoma Research.
Wendy is more used to presiding over things from the wings but will step back onto stage for the play and told ‘The Guide’, she was enjoying treading the boards again.
“The last time I directed and starred in a show was at least five years ago when we did the pantomime of ‘Sinbad’ but the big difference between the two is that I wasn’t in an awful lot of scenes in the panto while I’m in a lot this time round.
“Having not acted in anything for a while there is that doubt if you can still do it and I have to say when I walked across the stage last week and looked out into the theatre there was a ‘what am I doing’ moment but I’m loving it; I just wish someone else was directing!”
Rather surprisingly Wendy said the local ladies involved in ‘Calendar Girls’ didn’t require too much persuasion to strip down for the play, about a courageous group of W.I women who shoot a fundraising nude calendar, describing them as “a feisty bunch.”
“We’ve spent most of our time in rehearsals laughing,” she continued.
“But of course there’s been plenty of moments when we’ve stopped and thought what it’s all about. Yes we do take off our clothes but the main part of the play is why the women of the W.I did it in the first place; to raise money for a settee in a hospital ward.
“The girls are a fiesty bunch and don’t seem at all intimidated about ‘that part’ of the play or the fact they’re following in the footsteps of Helen Mirren and Julie Walters.
“It’s me who’s the most nervous!”
And if baring almost all to what they hope will be four packed houses at The Maltings, Wendy and her fellow cast mates Jackie Kaines, Sue Handoll, Cheryl Stewart, Angie McKeon and Ros Lister, are also giving people a permanent reminder of their turn in the spotlight with a 2013 calendar.
“Having the poster with us on up around town is bad enough for me!” Wendy joked.
“I’ve heard people talking about it so who know’s what they’ll make of the calendar. I was very nervous the night before the shoot thinking ‘what am I letting myself in for?’ and whether or not the other ladies would be comfortable doing it but it was amazing how well it went.
“The few men who are in the cast have their own page as do the technicians who are helping with the show- so everyone got in on the act.
“We’re having them done at Fantasy Prints and they keep asking how many we want. I’ve heard of other groups selling calendars who have sold hundreds so I’m really not sure what to expect; I just hope people will be keen to donate to the cause as we want to raise as much money as possible.”
Wendy is more known for taking charge of musicals such as ‘West Side Story’ and Opening Night Production’s last show ‘Rent’ and although her last directorial stint was for an adaptation of Philip Pulman’s ‘His Dark Materials’, she said ‘Calendar Girls’ was a completely different kettle of fish.
“It is a very hard play to direct,” she explained.
“It’s very naturalistic. With plays like ‘His Dark Materials’ you can take certain liberties as they’re set in the realms of fantasy but ‘Calendar Girls’, despite being very funny has a very sensitive subject nature and you have to remember that what we are performing is based on a true story so there’s that added pressure to do the women justice.
“I’m trying to get over to people how funny and heartwarming play it is. Yes there’s the bit where we take our clothes off but there’s a lot more to it than that.”
‘Calendar Girls’ will hit The Maltings stage from Thursday, November 15 to Saturday, November 17, with three 7.30pm performances and a 2.30pm matinee on the Saturday.