It’s not often you get the chance to be in a naked lady show when you’re a bloke on the wrong side of 60 who gave up on hairdressers 10 years ago.
I was offered a part in Shepparton Theatre Arts Group’s production of Calendar Girls either because I am the sort of alpha male who makes ladies want to rip off their clothes at the drop of a power tool, or because I am a dependably harmless sort of bloke who presents no sexual threat whatsoever.
I have a sinking feeling it’s the latter trait that won me the part (which, of course, is a very small part).
But on the other hand, I am also a delusional artist with a towering imagination who believes in charisma, pheromones and the mesmerising libido of James Bond.
That’s what acting is all about, right? Convincing other people they want to rip their clothes off when you enter the room.
That’s why Daniel Craig is such a damn fine actor. Inside he’s a stamp collector, but on screen he’s James Bond.
Anyway, as you would expect, Calendar Girls is about much more than ladies getting their gear off.
On one level it is about the power of small communities to get things done when they are driven by personal passion.
But on a far deeper level it will tell you what James Bond has to do with broccoli.
The plot is based on the true story of a conservative group of Women’s Institute ladies from the Yorkshire Dales who stripped off to make a ‘tasteful’ charity calendar after one of them loses her husband to cancer.
It seems pretty coy now, but 20 years ago the idea of middle-aged country women getting their gear off in a calendar raised eyebrows and cash across the world. Their original idea was to buy a new sofa for the local hospital.
In the end, they sold so many calendars they were able to buy a whole new cancer wing. The idea went viral without Facebook.
The story was made into a film with a $12 million budget, starring Helen Mirren and Julie Walters, which went on to gross $125 million across the world.
The play which followed had similar success.
So what makes the story so powerful?
Underneath the titillation and the slapstick humour, the story is about ongoing issues such as body image and the taboo of naked flesh — particularly the naked flesh of older women, or women who are not Instagram women. They are just women.
At its heart is the idea that we are all — men and women — more than the sum of our parts, particularly our bodily parts.
During the play we get a glimpse into the emotional lives of six women — what drives them, their insecurities, their petty jealousies and their private fears.
What unites them is a sense of purpose outside their own personal demons and desires.
We can see this in our Shepparton community.
The huge successes of Biggest Blokes Lunch and Pink Ribbon Brunch are built with the same bricks — the personal and the social coming together to make the world a better place.
What I have learned during the long rehearsal period for this play is that after prolonged exposure to nakedness, the nakedness drops away and all you see is the person.
I have also learned that the size of a home-baked cherry bun is vital when it comes to asset protection.
Calendar Girls opens at WestSide PAC in Mooroopna tonight and plays for two more performances tomorrow.
Get along and see it — just keep your underwear to yourself when the alpha male with the big bag of pheromones appears.
John Lewis is the News chief of staff.