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Calendar Girls makes West End debut

Published 17 October 2008

Tim Firth’s stage adaptation of the hit film Calendar Girls will open in the West End on 4 April at the Noël Coward theatre after completing its current regional tour. Lynda Bellingham, Patricia Hodge, Sian Phillips, Gaynor Faye, Brigit Forsyth, Julia Hills and Elaine C Smith star in the Yorkshire set drama.

Calendar Girls is the moving story of members of the Woman’s Institute who shun their usual cake baking competitions and jam making in order to produce a nude calendar to raise money for Leukaemia Research. The calendar causes a stir and the women find the sudden media interest more challenging than they could have predicted.

Based on a true story, it began life as the 2003 award-winning film starring Helen Mirren and Julie Walters. Firth adapted his screenplay for the stage and the production opened in September at Chichester Festival Theatre.

Following Mirren’s Golden Globe-winning performance as the feisty Chris Harper on stage is Bellingham. Most familiar for her iconic 1980s Oxo adverts, Bellingham has since been a regular fixture on television appearing in shows including All Creatures Great And Small, Doctor Who, Second Thoughts and most recently guest presenting the ITV chat show Loose Women. She appeared on the London stage in 2007 at the Trafalgar Studios in Vincent River, before the play transferred to Broadway.

In the role of Annie Clarke, whose husband’s death is the inspiration behind the calendar is Hodge. A well respected stage actress, Hodge has appeared in numerous productions during her 30 year career. Plays include The Prime Of Jean Brodie, the Old Vic’s Dream Me A Winter, Boeing Boeing and The Country Wife at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. She has also appeared in films including Harold Pinter’s Betrayal and starred alongside John Hurt in The Elephant Man.

Phillips is another stage veteran having appeared in Marlene at both the Lyric theatre and on Broadway, portraying the life of the iconic singer Marlene Dietrich. She has also appeared in films including David Lynch’s surreal Dune and most recently the 2006 British film The Gigolos. Her co-star Faye is best known for her television role in long-running soap Coronation Street. She also starred in ITV drama Fat Friends and the BBC drama The Chase.

Forsyth rose to fame for her role in the popular 1960s BBC comedy The Likely Lads. She has since appeared on the London stage in productions of The Norman Conquests, Dusa, Fish, Stas and Vi. Hills is a former member of the Royal Shakespeare Company who is most known for her role of Rona in the successful BBC sitcom 2 Point 4 Children. The final member of the leading cast, Smith is a Scottish comedian and actress who has appeared in BBC dramas 2000 Acres Of Sky and alongside Helena Bonham Carter in the British film Women Talking Dirty.

Other cast members include Joan Blackham, Abby Francis, Gary Lilburn, Gerald McDermot and Carl Prekopp.

Calendar Girls is directed by Laurence Oliver Award-winner Hamish McColl, who won the award in 2002 for The Play What I Wrote, which he both co-wrote and performed in. Set design comes from Robert Jones, with lighting by Malcolm Rippeth, costumes by Emma Williams and music by Steve Parry.

Calendar Girls opens on 4 April for a limited 12 week season, running until 27 June.

CM

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