Two peculiar, ill-matched fellows. One old and past it with delusions of being a writer. One younger, seemingly in a world of his own with artistic aspirations. Both creatively frustrated and arguably work-shy.
And your point is?
We admit to finding Tim Firth‘s Calendar Girls a bit of a chore – possibly because we are beyond middle-age, were turned down by the Women’s Institute and harbour no secret desires to display our unmentionables even for a charitable cause. But he has banked a few Whinger brownie points with Sign of the Times – an amiable if sometimes faltering and over-extended comedy.
Frank (Matthew Kelly) aspires to write spy thrillers but his 35 year old day job is putting up big display signs on the sides of buildings and he’s teaching a young apprentice Alan (Gerard Kearns) who harbours his own artistic leanings.
But how many people does it take to change a light up sign? Time and motion studies would have a field day with these two unless, of course, they’re tracking them with the Olympic Countdown Clock: there’s a lot of chat, tea drinking, biscuit noshing and Frank amusingly dictating his enjoyably awful novel into a Dictaphone every time he’s alone.
The first half hour is entertaining enough. Firth has penned some decent lines which suggest he studied at the Victoria Wood School of Northern Drollery. The cast of two have a comfortable rapport and are up to the job of finding humour in the script if not the actual job of sign-hanging.
Bookended with a decent opening and finish it goes a bit floppy in the middle and needs a squirt of oomph to make it through to the end. Some trimming and a run straight through without an interval would help if it weren’t for a full set change needed during the break. It was, apparently, a one-acter originally.
WEW favourite Matthew Kelly is his usual very watchable presence as the slightly pompous and disappointed Frank – delight in how he squeezes every ounce of humour out of the words like “flip-flop”,”abbatoir” and especially “plop”. Kearns is at his best in Act 2 which takes place three years later when the roles are reversed and he is now inducting his former tutor. There’s a bit of unlikely business involving a collapsing sign towards the end but it does elicit the biggest laugh of the show.
It’s difficult to see who might bother turning up for SOTT though which feels a tad dated and probably a rushed in filler after the (appropriately) untimely demise of Love Story. Calendar Girls seemed to have a built in audience and rather excitingly will release its amateur rights on an unsuspecting world, albeit briefly, next year. Start unbuckling those bra straps ladies. We can’t wait to see the matrons of the Dilton Marsh Players whipping their jugs out for that.