Picture the scene: It’s Friday night; a hot and very humid July evening and I, along with 150 other people am about to spend the next couple of hours or so watching some women bare all.
No, I’m not at a strip club. I’m in Bramham village hall about to witness something that I nor the hall with its long history of plays, pantomimes and countless other activities, had probably not prepared for.
It’s not everyday you see teapots, cakes and yarns of knitting protecting the modesty of six women.
You’ve guessed it…this year’s production by Bramham Drama Group was the ever popular Calendar Girls written by Tim Firth. And where better to hold it than the quaint Yorkshire village of Bramham.
The minimalistic set with projector screen backdrop allowed the audience to indulge in the acting and dialogue without distraction and the familiar images of local scenes evoked a sense of reality.
The underlying sadness of the story was heavily outweighed by the laughter as we got to know the girls’ contrasting personalities.
I was aware of a fair few sniffles among the audience as we bade farewell to John, testament to the sensitive approach to the role played by experienced local actor, Paul French.
Posh Celia’s (played by Caroline Stangroom) quick witted one liners had the audience in uproar.
Susan Shelbrooke was a natural as the feisty Chris which contrasted well with the confident portrayal of John’s wife, Annie (Becky Zimmerman).
Their on-stage bond beautifully symbolised the strength and encouragement needed to carry on after losing a loved one. Something everyone can relate to.
Geeky Ruth (Emma Little) bore a likeness to Hayley from Coronation Street - a reserved and timid creature who, finally, when boundaries are pushed, flourished into a strong and loveable character, sensationally surprising herself and the audience.
The script ensured that all the main characters had their own little ‘five minutes of fame’ which gave the audience a better insight into their characters.
Strong performances also came from Emily Roberts who played Cora, the rebellious single Mum who confidently sang the opening verse of Jerusalem at the beginning of the play and gamely showed us her bare back seated at the piano in the photoshoot scene.
Chris Wray, a real-life primary school headteacher, played to perfection the older retired teacher, Jessie. Type-cast, perhaps, but she was entirely believable.
The remaining cast all fulfilled their roles in an assured manner and included Kerr Mackie as Chris’s husband, Rod.
Ben Strangeway as Lawrence the photographer, Shane Huby as Liam, Jen Beaumont as Elaine and Yvonne Gibson and Gerry Taylor who shared the role of Lady Cravenshire.
And yes, in case you were wondering, the six Calendar Girls did actually disrobe for their individual ‘nude’ photographs.
But it was all very tastefully executed with strategically placed props and excellent staging.
Alison Mackie, the director of the play, should be applauded for bringing out the burgeoning talent of the cast - it was hard to guess that for several of the actors this was their first time in a major role.
The cathartic Calendar Girls released an overwhelming sense of euphoria, which was abundant in all and I really did ‘feel proud to be Yorkshire’.
The three sell out performances of this stunning production not only raised the bar in Bramham but the group must now surely lead the way in the standard of local amateur dramatics.
Well done to all, it was a ‘hat’s off’ performance (along with everything else!).