Front Row Center
By Michael Warren
By Tim Firth
Directed by Candace Luciano
This play is based on a real-life event. In 1999, eleven middle-aged ladies from the Rylstone and District Women’s Institute in Yorkshire, England, decided to produce a calendar in order to raise enough money to buy a new settee for the waiting room at the local hospital.
The husband of one of the eleven had recently died of leukemia, and many uncomfortable hours had been spent in that same waiting room. As a sales gimmick, these matrons posed naked for the camera behind strategically placed garden vegetables and kitchen paraphernalia. The rest is history. Their daring calendar became famous worldwide, and they ended up raising millions of pounds for Leukemia Research.
Candace Luciano, in her directorial debut at LLT, handled a large cast with considerable skill. It’s a complicated play, with a lot of scene and costume changes and a multitude of props, and it all went smoothly without a hitch. The six ladies of the Institute were realistically played by Collette Clavadetscher, Debra Bowers, Wendy Petersen, Jean Llewellyn, Chris L’Ecluse and Lupita Campbell. I admire their courage in disrobing on stage, of course discreetly, at the end of the first Act. Happily there were no wardrobe malfunctions!
Collette had a major role and played with considerable energy, while Debra pulled our heartstrings as the grieving widow. The ever-reliable Georgette Richmond was entertaining as the WI organizer, who would prefer a calendar featuring scenes of Yorkshire bridges. Or something. Other minor roles were successfully brought to the stage by Susan Quiriconi, Greg Clarke, Peter Luciano, Diana Rowland, Andrew Redfern, Lori Grant and Pamela Johnson.
This play was a huge marketing success for LLT. Every performance, including the preview, was sold out and the calendar (expertly photographed by Michael Thompson) was also a popular seller. The problem with the play is that we all know the story. As a result, there’s no tension or surprise, and there’s a danger that the audience will lose interest after the much-anticipated photo shoot.
There are some humorous moments, for example when “Chris” wins first prize in the baking competition with a cake she bought at Marks & Spencer. But on the whole it’s not a skillfully written play. All the more credit therefore to Candace and her team for giving us such an entertaining evening. I should also mention the very effective back-screen video produced by J.E. Jack, and the ingenious moving scene changes designed by Ruth Kear. A lot of people worked hard to make this show a success, notably Stage Manager Beth Leitch and her assistant Bruce Linnen.
Many thanks to Candace Luciano, and to everyone on- and off-stage.
Column: Front Row Center
Michael Warren grew up in London, England and lived on Baker Street very close to where Sherlock Holmes hung out his shingle. He graduated with an Honors degree in Mathematics from King’s College, Cambridge, which no doubt helps him to balance his check book. While a student, he edited a humorous magazine entitled “ffobia” which was widely circulated amongst his friends.