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Calendar girl close-up

A “girlie” calendar in a local shop inspired actor Wendy Dewstow's character, Chris Harper, with the idea of raising funds to buy a new sofa for the hospital waiting room in Unity Theatre's upcoming production of Calendar Girls.

The play is based on the real-life story of four Women's Institute members and friends who pose nude for an “alternative” calendar which is sold to raise funds.

The sofa is planned to replace what Chris calls the “man-eating settee” in the hospital waiting room where Chris and Annie spent many hours while Annie's husband John was treated for terminal cancer. The new sofa was to be bought in memory of John.

The calendar is a huge success but Chris and Annie's friendship is put to the test with their new-found fame.

“It's a true story,” says Dewstow.

“Those women were so unbelievably bold in what they did. Look at the photos. They're smiling and they believe in what they're doing. The women became very famous. They made so much money and it all went to the hospital where John died.”

Cast as widowed Annie Clarke's (Alyssa Thompson) best friend of 14 years, Dewstow is at home as Harper.

“Chris will talk to anybody and anyone about anything. She likes to chat and put herself out there. She's at home in crowds. I understand Chris. She can have the best intentions but they sometimes misfire and that's what happens between her and Annie.”

Chris and Annie are like naughty schoolgirls, says Dewstow.

“Annie is only naughty because she takes Chris's lead. Annie is quiet and gentle, the opposite of Chris.”

Although Calendar Girls is Thompson's second show, the onstage chemistry between the two actors is fantastic, says Dewstow.

“I've never felt that connection with a character like that before. You can feel the chemistry onstage and that's awesome.”

• Calendar Girls, Unity Theatre, 209 Ormond Road, August 13 – August 22, 7.30pm with a 3pm matinee on August 16. Tickets available from eventfinda.

BESTIES: Wendy Dewstow's character, Chris Harper, and Annie (Alyssa Thompson, left) share a close friendship, and shared mission, after Annie's husband dies in the comedy Calendar Girls that Julie McPhail is directing for a Unity Theatre production. Picture by Elenor Gill