REVIEW:Calendar Girls, by Tim Firth, Regent Theatre, Ipswich, until November 12

WE’VE all lost or know somebody who has lost a loved one to cancer so it’s no wonder the show has touched so many people’s hearts the way it has.

The fact it’s extremely funny doesn’t hurt either.

The true story of a group of ordinary Yorkshire WI members who do something extraordinary when they pose for a charity calendar with a difference, it’s the most successful play to ever tour the UK - taking more at theatre box offices than the smash hit Helen Mirren and Julie Walters’ movie version.

We saw a version in London’s West End a few years back and this touring version is even better.

Boasting a star cast, including original Chris Lynda Bellingham, this bittersweet tale strikes the right balance between tears of laughter and tears of saddness.

The writing is razor sharp and the characters so relatable; played with such strength, fragility and truth that you’re willing them to conquer their joint and individual challenges.

As for the calendar shoots themselves, choreographed like a fine ballet, I take my hat off - but nothing else - to all involved.

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It’s one of the funniest scenes of the entire play and highlights the amazing chemistry between the cast who are clearly having as much fun doing it as we are watching it.

Everyone had their moment to shine, but Debbie Chazen as the put-upon Ruth and June Watson as the acerbic Jessie threaten to steal every scene they’re in. However, it’s an ensemble piece and there isn’t a weak link.

A rollercoaster of emotions; the scene where letters from others who have gone through the same experience fall from the sky to be read out by the cast tugged at the heart-strings.

It made you remember that this show, which has inspired so many and generated so much joy was born out of such real-life sadness.

To date the real Calendar Girls have raised more than �3million for Leukaemia Research and I’d urge everyone to make a donation as they leave the theatre.

There are only a handful of seats left for the rest of the run so be quick if you don’t want to miss out on a real treat.