Yesterday, Kelly (my wife) and I attended a special performance of The Girls at the Phoenix Theatre in London.

The Girls follows on from smash hit play and film Calendar Girls, the true story of a group of Yorkshire housewives who posed nude in order to raise funds to buy a settee for their local hospital, in memory of one of their husbands. To date, they have raised almost £5million for Bloodwise. This musical comedy shows life in their Yorkshire village, how it happened, the effect on husbands, sons and daughters, and how a group of ordinary ladies achieved something extraordinary.

with the AMAZING Calendar Girls.

Me with the amazing REAL Calendar Girls (2013)

The show has brought together the writing talents of Gary Barlow and Tim Firth; it originally opened at The Grand Theatre in Leeds and The Lowry Theatre, Salford. Now it’s in the West End until April.

We were kindly invited by the producers of the show and by Bloodwise, along with lots of other patients and many health care professionals. This was the first performance at The Phoenix and as we settled into our seats, we weren’t sure what to expect.

The show was a smash; great songs, as you would expect from Gary Barlow, and a fluid, creative set. All of the performance were strong and the time flew by. The incredibly familiar story was brought to life in a way the film and the previous production didn’t, it was all too easy to fall in love with these characters again. The show ended with a magnificent standing ovation from a packed theatre.

The trouble is that it’s an incredibly difficult watch. 24 hours later and I’m still completely and utterly emotionally drained. The scenarios and situations felt all-too-real and I’m not ashamed to say that I spent the majority of the performance with tears streaking down my face.

The subject of blood cancer and an ultimately tragic illness were dealt with respectfully and with great compassion and as a patient, I didn’t feel patronised at all.

My emotional connection wasn’t helped by the fact that I’ve spent time with the real Calendar Girls. At two Bloodwise Impact Days, I’ve been led astray by the girls and their husbands (the boys?) until the early hours. They are incredible company and the relationships I saw on stage were an uncanny reflection of people I’ve spent time with.

This show deserves to play packed houses for the entire run, it’s a wonderful night out. It’s a show where you’ll find real emotional attachment. The people are real…really, real. And the comedy is real, the laughter is real, the passion is real and the potential life-affirming outcome from a tragic illness are real. It’ll make you want to plant a sunflower and toast ‘Clarky’. Congratulations to all involved.

Huge thanks to Bloodwise (especially Andy), the UK’s specialist blood cancer charity, who hosted patients and really looked after us. Bloodwise will receive monies from the production.
Bloodwise: The Girls