Mill at Sonning
11 Apr – 1st June 2024

“When Annie’s husband John dies of leukaemia, she and best friend Chris resolve to raise money for a new settee in the local hospital waiting room. They manage to persuade four fellow WI members to pose nude with them for an “alternative” calendar, with a little help from hospital porter and amateur photographer Lawrence. The news of the women’s charitable venture spreads like wildfire, and hordes of press soon descend on the small village of Knapeley in the Yorkshire Dales. The calendar is a success, but Chris and Annie’s friendship is put to the test under the strain of their new-found fame.

Based on the true story of 11 WI members who posed nude for a calendar to raise money for the Leukaemia Research Fund, Calendar Girls opened at the Chichester Festival Theatre and has since become the fastest-selling play in British theatre history”

Review by Richard Lambert, 4 Stars

In a very British, saucy postcard sort of way, Calendar Girls takes a group of rather conservative WI members and gets them to pose for a calendar to raise money for charity. Nothing below the waist, and with carefully placed objects to cover the majority of the chest, you’re all set to go. Bring in a fresh-faced young male photographer and a range of female personalities and this hilarious musical sets sail with gusto.

The book is predictable and set on a true story. You do need to imagine a different time to understand why this was even noteable. The calendar did gain traction and became an international sensation and huge commercial success.

The Mill at Sonning is always exciting to visit. With it’s scrumptious dining before the show and then a no-expense-spared set design, all the stops are pulled out by Sally Hughes and her wonderful team to make this an unforgettable experience. The Set unfolds from an outdoor countryside setting with gated stile into an indoor village hall where the WI meetings are held. Edging this remarkable set is larger than life prints of calendar months and across the proscenium header is the months in Titles – each highlighted by lighting to indicate what month we’re in.

This is a large cast – larger than most West End shows these days, with many of the cast being TV and theatrical “names”.

Technically the show is fairly simple with extended scene changes done in low lighting, supervised by an on-stage stage manager with a wireless headset.

All in all, good harmless fun that all the family can enjoy.

Photo credit: Andreas Lambis

Debbie Arnold (Cora)
Basienka Blake (Celia)
Oscar Cleaver (Lawrence/Liam)
Elizabeth Elvin (Marie)
Rachel Fielding (Chris)
Kitty Harris (Elaine)
Ciara Janson (Ruth)
Natalie Ogle (Annie)
Dawn Perllman (Brenda Hulse/Lady Cravenshire)
Steven Pinder (Rod)
Andrew Ryan (John)
Sarah Whitlock (Jessie)
Creative Team:
Director: Sally Hughes
Set Designer: Terry Parsons
Costume Designer: Natalie Titchener
Lighting Designer: Matthew Biss
Sound Design: Technical Team at The Mill at Sonning
Casting: Kate Plantin CDG

 Tim Firth – playwright
Tim Firth’s theatre credits include Greatest Days, Now Is Good (UK Theatre nomination Best Musical) This Is My Family (Sheffield Crucible, UK Theatre Award Best New Musical), Neville’s Island (Nottingham Playhouse and West End, Evening Standard & Olivier nomination, MEN Award), The Safari Party (Stephen Joseph, Scarborough and Hampstead), the musical Our House (West End, Olivier Award Best Musical), The Flint Street Nativity (Liverpool Playhouse) and Sign of the Times (UK tour and West End). His play Calendar Girls (Chichester Festival Theatre, West End) broke all British records for a professional and amateur play, was nominated for an Olivier and won the Whatsonstage Best Comedy Award. Calendar Girls – The Musical, co-written with Gary Barlow, opened at Leeds Grand Theatre and transferred to the Phoenix Theatre in the West End, winning a Whatsonstage Award and an Olivier nomination. His musical The Band opened its national tour in the UK, winning the MEN best Musical award, before transferring to the Haymarket Theatre. Tim’s film credits include Blackball, Calendar Girls (British Comedy Award) and Kinky Boots (Best International Film, Florida FF). Tim’s most recent film, The Wedding Video, was directed by Nigel Cole.

The Mill at Sonning Theatre
Set majestically on the banks of the River Thames, the Mill at Sonning Theatre is celebrating more than 40 years of entertainment. Uniquely, as one of the only dinner theatres in the United Kingdom, it has gained unrivalled praise both nationally and internationally, winning awards such as the 2023 UK  Theatre Award Winner for the Best Musical Production for GYPSY, and The Most Welcoming Theatre 2016, 2017 and 2018. The intimate theatre seats 217. The elegant restaurant, separate from the theatre but within the premises, with views over the river Thames has the friendliest young staff of waiters and waitresses. A spinning waterwheel features in the gorgeous bar. Only a short taxi journey from the Elizabeth Line (Reading Station or Twyford Station), The Mill at Sonning Theatre is the perfect day trip from London. A two-course meal, coffee and tea, and a beautiful programme are included in the price of the tickets.


Calendar Girls by Tim Firth
Based on the Miramax motion picture by Juliette Towhidi and Tim Firth

Directed by Sally Hughes

The Mill at Sonning Theatre
Sonning Eye

11 April – 1 June

Two-course lunch or dinner is included with each show

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