The Calendar Girls - Elegant Nudity At The StanleyWednesday, February 01, 2012
|Rachel Ditor - Director|
I attended the first night performance of Tim Firth’s Calendar Girls at the Arts Club’s Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage tonight with some second thoughts. I have read enough newspaper articles on firemen, the goat herding women in Salt Spring Island or such projects as Dominatrixes for the Prevention of Tongue Lashing of Children by School Principals, doing their strip for calendars to over-satiate me to the point of boredom. I saw enough Stripathons (exotic dancers taking it all off for breast cancer) in the 80s in now sadly gone establishments as the Drake, the Marble Arch and the Cecil to quench all thirst for further nudity. In fact I attended one memorable one at the Cecil where I sat down for 12 hours and never watched a dancer do her routine more than once while my accompanying friend showed extreme tolerance to a continuous supply of Heinekens.
Before the lights went out I noticed behind me the fabulously dressed Sara-Jeanne Hosie who looked resplendent. My heart fluttered and I hope Rosemary did not notice. We were sitting next to the principal of one our city’s most venerable tax law firms and his British wife. We chatted. Junior members of his firm had once considered relieving Tony Ricci of the problematic ownership of the Marble Arch Hotel before it finally was purchased by gentleman of the Church of Christ of the Latter Saints who converted it into a Coca-Cola-free zone hostel.
The wife, after the first act informed me that she had seen the play in London some years back and was utterly amazed how more risqué the Arts Club Theatre Company’s version was.
My Rosemary has been noticing that her hearing has begun to deteriorate a tad. While many of my bodily functions are in obvious decline and decay I can state that my hearing is as keen as it ever was. As a high school teacher in the early 70s word quickly spread in the school that Mr. Hayward could read lips. I never told my students who were silent even in the back row that I simply had a very good ear.
My hearing was at fault in tonight’s performance. I believe that the Stanley was never really extensively modified acoustically to liven sound. When actors (and we had excellent seats on the 7th row, stage left) spoke in profile, stage right, the sound was muffled. Then there was the problem first stated eloquently by Samuel Clemens when he wrote about talking to en English gentleman in a train compartment:
“I could pile up differences here until I not only convinced you that English and American are separate languages, but that when I speak my native tongue in its utmost purity an Englishman can't understand me at all."
"I don't wish to flatter you, but it is about all I can do to understand you now." [So the Englishman countered.]
As I tried to decipher the various versions of the Yorkshire dialect (and I have read every Reginald Hill [alas he died a couple of weeks ago] Dalziel and Pascoe detective novel], when I could hear it, I wondered what Mark Twain would have opined. There was a fine moment in the play when Shirley Broderick (who plays the older of the six “girls” said something… bum and everybody laughed. The lawyer to my right immediately asked his wife what had been said. I asked as soon as the lights went on. It seems that Broderick’s (exquisitely funny) had used a very British euphemism for female pudenda which was “front bottom”.
With the sound problems out of the way, I can assert that I heard enough to really enjoy Calendar Girls and that throughout I noticed the elegant hand and gentle direction by Rachel Ditor who relinquished her position, temporarily. Having been in her apartment once to photograph her I can tell you that her apartment is elegant and in furnished in the best of taste. And who else but Ditor would have in the background Charlie Haden’s Nocturne (2002) playing on her CD player as my granddaughter interviewed her?
While not having seen the London version of the play, I would say that the nudity tonight was tasteful. On most occasions when people say my photographic nudes are tasteful I want to punch them, but here when I say tasteful I mean it as a compliment.
There is a word in Spanish equivalent (but happily not so much) to juggling. Our Spanish word is malabarismo and it is a combination of skill and dexterity. That all the women, one at a time, during their nude photo session were able to almost instantly take it all off (behind some round black reflectors) and then magically appear with strategically placed fruits, or a teapot or a sweet bun, hiding all the offending bits, is a paean to malabarismo.
The calendar photographer Lawrence played by Aslam Husain, was a believable photographer. The placing of the two umbrella lights (but artistic license must be given as had they been as close as they had to be, they would have been not only in the way but dangerous to the actors) were placed too far appart. I particularly liked how he with the help of the dialogue enabled him to get the best he could from each “girl”. A minor detail (again artistic license should be paramount here) he should have moved his camera into a vertical position when he photographed Anna Galvin’s Chris, full body standing, with a flower in her mouth and a flowery background. The resulting view made me temporarily forget Sara-Jeanne Hosie and I felt as if my heart had had been pierced by the venomous spurs of a marauding Ornithorhynchus anatinus.
Rosemary and I did lots of laughing but curiously I again noticed an increasing trend in Vancouver and this is that actors have to learn to do everything. Linda Quibell was just fine on the piano as was her direction of the “girls” choir. They could really sing.
David Marr’s Rod was spot on but I would bet that his superior talents would be vanquished if he were to ever appear as a Texan. (That’s a dare!).
In the end I always appreciate the performance of the man who can wear many hats (and I also mean that literally) Shawn Macdonald, who played the cancer stricken John. He injected just the right amount of bitter sweet pathos and Wendy Noel, as his wife Annie followed suit.