A GROUP of brave women in West Linton are all set to strip off for an amateur production of Calendar Girls, writes Nan Spowart.
They will be one of the first amateur groups in Britain to bare all for the production – it becomes available to amateurs in September – but for them, the famous story will be even more poignant as the husband of one of the cast is undergoing chemotherapy for cancer.
Jacqui Morrison, 48, will play Annie, whose husband dies of cancer during the making of the nude calendar.
She admits that playing the role will be hard but says it is worth it as the aim of the production is to raise money for the Margaret Kerr Unit at Borders General Hospital as well as Macmillan nurses.
“I will find it difficult and there are parts where I feel myself choking up,” Jacqui said. “But I think this will make it more real for everybody as a lot of people in the village know about my husband and they are all very supportive.
“So many people round here have been affected by cancer that they understand what’s happening to us.”
Her husband, Ian, 55, was diagnosed with bowel cancer seven months ago after a routine test. He was called into Borders General Hospital in October for a colonoscopy and was told he had cancer the same day.
“It was a bolt from the blue as he had no symptoms and is very fit and healthy,” says Jacqui.
The couple, who had been together for eight years, were due to get married this March but Jacqui said: “When this happened, Ian said he wanted to get married as soon as we could manage.”
With bowel surgery scheduled for December, the couple had little time to organise the wedding but managed it in a fortnight. They married at 11am on 11/11/2011.
“We didn’t ask for that time and date – it was just the slot the registrar had,” she said.. “We were very lucky and it was a fantastic day.”
Ian had a major operation in December to remove a section of bowel but was up and about four days later.
“The surgeon, who was brilliant, said he recovered well because he is so fit and healthy,” Jacqui says.
Since January, Ian has been having chemotherapy to clear up any residual cancer cells but has been responding well and has his seat booked for his wife’s performance in September.
He said: “One of the charities they are raising money for is Macmillan nurses, which is great as I have had fantastic care from them and I’m glad they are trying to give something back.
“I’m lucky that the cancer was caught before I had any symptoms – it just shows how important routine tests are and I would encourage everybody who has the chance to take them.”
As well as having to cope with her emotions about Ian, Jacqui – and the rest of the cast – have to get used to the idea of being on stage in the nude. Some have been exercising frantically to get in shape.
“We are all going to be as naked as we have to be but it will be done tastefully and hopefully there will be no slip-ups!” says Jacqui. “It isn’t the type of thing we normally do but it is for a good cause and I am sure we will have fun.”
Jacqui has been a member of Lyne-Up, the amateur dramatic society in West Linton, near Peebles, since she was in her 20s
The play tells of a Women’s Institute who strip off for a calendar to raise funds for cancer research after the husband of a member is diagnosed with the disease.
“Not many people would be brave enough to play the part of Annie when their husband is going through chemotherapy,” says Deb Armstrong, 53, who is playing the part of Chris.
“It is going to be very poignant for her but Ian is very supportive and came with us to watch the professional production in Edinburgh, which must have been quite hard for him considering that in the play John dies.
“We were not sure that Jacqui would want to play the role and we are all quite amazed that she decided to do it as it is a big deal for her.
“The wedding was very emotional and this production will probably be quite weepy too, although Jacqui and Ian are both very brave and are dealing with everything well.”
The group are considering replicating the original Women’s Institute group by producing their own nude calendar to raise further cash for cancer charities.
“Some of the men in the village did a nude calendar several years ago and raised £63,500 so the aim will be to beat that,” explains Deb.
Deb said: “I think quite a lot of people will come to see some of the local well known ladies disrobed but the fact that we can raise money is more important than anything else so we are trying not to worry about showing off our bodies.
“I think we are all happy to shed any feelings of modesty along with our clothes because of the impact this will have. After all, it is not just us as there will be groups fundraising in this way up and down the country.”The performance is on September 14, 15, 20, 21 and 22.
Anyone who would like to donate should go to www.justgiving.com/Jacqui-Morrison2