The true story of Calendar Girls is about a group of middle aged ladies who belonged to the local Women's Institute in a Yorkshire village.

And it's about to be told in Whangarei by the Octagon Theatre.

After one of their husbands dies of leukaemia the Yorkshire ladies decide to raise funds to buy a new couch for the local hospital's waiting room - but the previous year's calendar of local churches raised "just about enough to buy a leg splint for a hamster".

Taking the lead from some risqué calendars, they decide to make one celebrating the mature female body.

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Maintaining their modesty with well-placed props chosen from activities that the WI is known for - knitting, gardening, cooking, flower arranging etc - they create a fabulous calendar.

Sales went viral and they raised enough money was raised to build a new wing at the hospital.

That was in 1999 and 10 years later a second calendar was made by some of the original group.

The story was made into a 2003 successful film and later into a play written by Tim Firth, which has been produced by theatre companies worldwide.

And now The Octagon Theatre in Whangarei is producing Calendar Girls.

In the spirit of the original project, the opening night's proceeds will be given to North Haven Hospice, the caterer for the dinner served before the show will donate her time and some of her suppliers will also come to the party.

Director Jane Barr said this play is challenging with a cast of 14, dozens of props, 14 different scenes, and a complex music and lighting plot.

More than being about the production of the calendar, the play is about the six "girls" involved. Each of them has a back story, and the success of their project at times puts a strain on old friendships.

Jane said she was lucky to find a talented cast all of whom have had stage experience.
The photography scene has required a lot of rehearsing.

The scriptwriter said: "The art of the play's nudity lies in what is withheld. The choreography of this sequence is best described as 'fabulous concealment'."

Among the masses of props the team of Wendy Fulcher, Carole Harris and Mike Elrick have collected and made are over 100 sunflowers.

Calendar Girls opens at Grand Charity Gala night at The Octagon Theatre on November 16.

Theatre goers are encouraged to wear a sunflower or something yellow.

The play runs to December 3, with a matinee performance on each Sunday of the season.

Bookings open today with tickets for just the show or dinner and show available from The Piggery bookshop.