Make a date with these brave girls
CAREFULLY-PLACED sticky buns and tea cosies will be called upon to hide the blushes of the Calendar Girls at Swansea's Grand Theatre.
The heart-warming show brews up from Monday until Saturday, with another brave clutch of ladies giving their all for theatre-goers from 7.30pm.
Ruth Madoc, Lesley Joseph, Camilla Dallerup and Sue Holderness are among the ladies who will raise eyebrows, temperatures and big issues, with the true tale of a group of friends in the WI, who go to extreme lengths to support one of their number, when she loses her husband to cancer.
Sue Holderness, best known as Boycie's flighty wife Marlene in Only Fools And Horses, says: "I'm the lady with the teapot — last time I was the lady with the buns, although I don't know why because I'm not well endowed in that department! But I have always loved the character of Annie. It is wonderful to go on stage and to know a character you are playing is going to touch people."
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And while the show does leave a warm glow in its wake everywhere it goes, the cast has enough life experience to be acutely aware of how serious its subject matter is.
"I know that if you asked everyone in the theatre audience to put their hand up if they have been touched by cancer," says Sue, "most would put their hand up.
"And Calendar Girls, although it is funny and warm and about these wonderful ladies and their friendship, it is essentially about cancer.
"We have people from cancer charities who set up stalls at the theatres and I always go out and chat to them. I have heard so many incredible stories about why they are involved in fundraising. It is very affecting.
"In fact meeting the public and hearing their stories is one of my favourite aspects of acting in Calendar Girls.
"We went to a theatre in Carlisle which gets almost no drama at all and the audience were so sweet to us. There were so pleased to have us that they baked cakes and left them backstage to say thank you. It was so touching."
The strength of any production of Calendar Girls, is how well that bond between the characters comes through. And Sue says the performers have become close-knit.
"We have all worked in Calendar Girls before so we are like old friends.
"And I think we do talk about the personal things that you probably don't when you are working with men.
"For instance I know Lesley Joseph's mum is 100 and we talk about the issue of caring for an elderly relative, which I have done as well."
That closeness helps to deal with the nerves about stripping off too.
"At first you are a little nervous about it, because we all worry about how our boobs look, or if we have a wobbly belly, but everyone looks quite beautiful nude really and the actresses have seen each other naked so often now that any fear has worn off."