By Jodi Bryant
A bunch of Kerikeri ladies are braving the elements and baring nearly all for entertainment while simultaneously raising money for child cancer.
Kerikeri's Stage Door Theatre Company is presenting the popular play Calendar Girls and locals were quick to put their hands up to participate.
Calendar Girls is the heart-warming, humorous and moving play that has toured the world, raising money for cancer charities since it was inspired by a true story in the 90s.
When the husband of a Yorkshire Women's Institute member fell ill with cancer, the group were determined to raise money for a new sofa in the hospital waiting room via a calendar, but not just any calendar.
The loveable cast of mature ladies decided to be bold and go nude for their cause, and they consequently took, not only Yorkshire by storm, but the whole world. Originally a smash-hit movie, followed by equally well-received plays and musicals, the idea to bring it to Kerikeri was by The Stage Door Theatre Company committee member Jenny Blackler.
"I've been involved in amateur theatre for almost forty years, on the stage and behind the scenes, including some directing," explains Jenny. "I had been thinking for some time that it would be good to present a play, with an adult cast, the intent being to attract and entertain an older audience."
Producer and co-director Jackie Matthews says they had no trouble finding cast members which involves six main ladies representing various months.
"We had approximately 18 ladies and three men (needed as husbands and photographers) who auditioned and we only needed nine ladies for parts in the play – a good turn-out considering they all knew they would be nude on stage, albeit covered."
While most of the cast members are from Kerikeri, one hails from Rawene and two
from Russell and they have been rehearsing three times a week since May for the show, which opens August 1 until August 4 at The Turner Centre.
Early childhood educator Janine Snowling, who plays the role of Ruth – Miss November, says it was her New Year's resolution to try new things which lead her to attend the audition.
"While being offered the part of Ruth was very exciting, learning the production is a fundraiser for child cancer meant my decision was clear. Being an early childhood teacher, I could think of no better way to spend cold winter evenings than having fun rehearsing with a really fun group of people for a good cause."
Miss October's Les Robinson was at the UK opening of the Calendar Girls stage show in Yorkshire with the original cast members.
"All of us Yorkshire folk got right behind it. It was a story we could all relate to in one way or another - after all there can't be many people who haven't lost a beloved family member or friend to the dreaded 'C'.
"I have always longed to take part in this production to help raise money for such a great cause. My best friend in the UK, Deena Payne, (ex Viv in Emmerdale) toured in this show as Cora and it was her naked back which was displayed on the London buses promoting the show. Not that it needed much promoting. Everyone wants to see Calendar Girls!
"The Calendar Girls story is inspiring, brave and, above all, full of love and sisterhood. I'm proud and honoured to be a member of such a great Kerikeri cast playing Chris."
Additional to the show, Stage Door are producing their own calendar. A further six women have been lined up to pose for the remaining months for the calendar shoot.
The Kerikeri Calendar Girls Calendar, funded by local businesses and photographed by Flash Gordon Photography at various locations around Kerikeri and Russell, will be available to purchase before, during and after the show, with $5 from each sale also going to the Child Cancer Foundation.
This, too, was Jenny Blackler's idea and a charity close to her heart.
"I have two grandsons who have had cancer, and survived it, after lengthy, and gruelling treatments. They are both well and happy today because of these treatments. I cannot say how grateful I, and my family are, to the all the wonderful people who helped to achieve this."