The Thespians’ next production, Calendar Girls, opens on Tuesday 29 January at the Lawrence Batley Theatre.
Based on the true story of a group of Women’s Institute members who posed nude for a calendar to raise money for the Leukaemia Research Fund, Calendar Girls has been made into a highly successful film, and has had many hit productions.
The two lead characters, Chris and Annie, are played by Rebecca Starrett and Miriam Marsden respectively. We caught up with them about the Thespians’ production.
Your characters, Chris and Annie, are based on real people, and their story is very well-known. What is it like playing such iconic characters?
Rebecca: Well, I think there’s a little bit of Chris and Annie in each of us, so some people might say that we’re not actually acting at all but just being ourselves! And I do feel that they are iconic only in so much as they are so realistic, so prone to human failings and such brilliantly ‘Yorkshire women’ in their humour, attitudes to life and friendship. Yes, it is tough having to follow in the footsteps of award-winning actresses such as Helen Mirren and Julie Walters, but at least we will have the upper hand in having authentic Yorkshire accents!
Miriam: It is a bit daunting, especially as there are rumours that one of the original Calendar Girls is coming to one of the performances. I don’t think I’ve played a real person before. Annie is a lovely warm character to play, and I just hope that my portrayal does her justice.
Actors sometimes complain that there are not enough parts for slightly older women, but Calendar Girls contains nine such roles. Is that refreshing?
Rebecca: It’s fantastic and is a real strength of this play; it’s not about the obvious ‘calendar shots’ but about relationships and friendship between women and the inner strength we all have that we may not even know about. Each of the women in this play has their own challenges to overcome and, as an actor, the challenge is portraying that sensitively. As actors we have especially relished the ad-libbing required in some sections and, as the weeks have progressed, these sections of the play have really developed. I think we could all now form a WI group of our own, we now know each other so well.
Miriam: Yes, it makes a great change, particularly as they are such diverse, rounded characters. It’s been brilliant working with a group of women of a similar age. I haven’t done that since I was in the play ‘Daisy Pulls It Off’, which is where I first met Rebecca. I think the rapport & warmth come across very well.
What do you think audiences will enjoy most about the production?
Rebecca: Well, as most will have a definite opinion about the production based on their experiences of the film; buns and buttocks! But there’s much more to the play than that, it’s quite different to the film too, so I believe they will enjoy seeing themselves in the varied characters and their situations and perhaps also in our various lumps and bumps – we all have our faults, both physical and emotional, but it doesn’t mean that we all can’t forge real friendships and do great deeds if we work together. Well come and see it, and make up your own mind!
Miriam: Hopefully the same things as the cast. There are some brilliantly funny lines in the play and then, before the end of the page, you’re in tears as the reality of their situations (often cancer related), hits home. It’s also going to be hard to forget some of the costumes!