Reviewed by Fran Edwards
Tackling an iconic show that has been a popular movie can bring its own set of problems, people have very set ideas about what they expect and the cast can find that very daunting. Add partial nudity to that and it becomes a real challenge.
Matt Byrne has put together an excellent cast to present this lovely piece, skilled and very brave!
The story centres on a branch of the Women’s Institute in Yorkshire and is based on a true story. The crux of the story is that because of a personal tragedy in the life of one of the women they decide to raise money to put a new couch in the cancer ward of the local hospital and their efforts make global news.
The group is supposedly lead by Marie, played with gusto by Penni Hamilton-Smith and consists of six other women of mature years. There is piano playing Cara, church organist, beautifully portrayed by Michelle Hutchinson, Celia, the respectable lady with a wild past, given colour by Cathie Oldfield, Jessie the quiet one, carefully under played by Mignone Siemer, and Ruth, the worrier made very real by Maggie Wood.
The actual leaders are, of course, Annie, played with quiet strength by Chris Bussey and the inimitable Chris brought to life by the larger than life Tracey Korsten; these two are the axis around which everything revolves, both give memorable performances.
The supporting cast is also good; James McCluskey-Garcia and Malcolm Walton play the husbands of Annie and Chris. McCluskey-Garcia does particularly well, not over playing the suffering. Eleanor Boyd, Marc Brown, James Snow and Carla Bonanni all do well and have their moments.
The set is appropriate and the crew does a great job of keeping the action moving and the scene changing smooth. Byrne should be commend also for using this opportunity to raise funds for local cancer charities, and well done the ladies of the cast for posing for a calendar to help raise funds. Don’t forget to buy one when you see this excellent show!