Cancer and crumpet: add it to your calendar!
“Every stage of growth has its own beauty, but the last phase is always the most glorious,” is true of both flowers and of women, as Copenhagen Theatre Circle sets out to prove in their autumn production of Tim Firth’s Calendar Girls.
Based on the 2003 feature film script of the same name, the play follows a group of Yorkshire women who pose nude for a “Pirelli-type” calendar in an effort to raise money for leukaemia. And ‘women’, for once, does not refer to a group of 20 to 26-year-olds (who may or may not resemble teenagers), but real women, this time ranging between the ages of 29 and 74.
CTC’s own six gorgeous Calendar Girls find the scene in which they shoot the calendar – otherwise known as ‘the fabulous concealment’ – to be an important, if not challenging experience that is central to the message of the play.
“We want to show that women are vibrant and beautiful at any age, but it’s still a difficult thing to do. It’s putting yourself far out of your comfort zone,” confesses Polly, who at 29, is the youngest of the Calendar Girls and new to both Denmark and acting.
“I’ve heard of women who refuse to go to the doctor because they’re embarrassed about their bodies,” adds Tina, a fellow Calendar Girl, who is a trained stage manager and the only American in the cast. “We need to dare to get in touch with ourselves and see that we are beautiful just as we are – this play really expresses that.”
It’s standard procedure in Hollywood to take a successful play and adapt it for the screen, but the reverse is less common: to make a play based on a film.
“I was apprehensive at first. I mean, a play based on a film?!” confides Vanessa, one of the few professionally trained actors among the cast, who currently resides in Malmö and takes the train over for daily rehearsals. “But the script is actually better; it’s so much funnier! Each character is more developed.
There’s someone every woman can relate to.”
The 2003 feature film, which was directed by Nigel Cole and starred Helen Mirren and Julie Walters, was based on real events. A Yorkshire sector of the Women’s Institute started the calendar, initially to raise money to buy a couch for the waiting room of the local hospital, where one of the member’s husbands was receiving treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
“Everybody’s lives are touched by cancer. My father had prostrate cancer and my friend had breast cancer,” says Debbie, who plays Marie, the head of the WI in the play. “We’ve all lost someone or been affected somehow.”
Every Calendar Girls performance, whether done by an amateur or professional theatre group, continues to contribute towards the fight against cancer, with 50 percent of the royalties going towards cancer research. On top of this, the CTC has decided to donate a portion of its profits from this production to Rigshospitalet.
Maureen, a CTC veteran since ’73, has been living in Denmark for 40 years and celebrates her 74th birthday only a few weeks before the premiere. For her, the Copenhagen Theatre Circle has played a major role in her life in Denmark.