NUDE calendars are nothing new nowadays but when a Yorkshire WI group shed their clothes for charity many moons ago, little did members know what a runaway success it would be.

Now the much-cherished Calendar Girls story has come to York as Pick Me Up Theatre brings the humour and poignancy of Tim Firth’s stage adaptation to the Grand Opera House until Saturday.

The opening night audience was predominantly women but the universal themes, the comedy and sorrow, would appeal to all.

Martyn Hunter is superb as John whose death is sensitively shown with simplicity and respect under Robert Readman’s direction.

Sandy Nicholson is well cast as Chris, with a natural stage presence, and shares a strong chemistry with widowed Annie, sincerely played by Jackie Cox.

They make a great double act as the calendar figureheads, backed by a strong cast of women including suitably spirited Celia (Jeanette Hunter), musical single mum Cora (Becky Lyne), self-important WI president Marie (Barbara Johnson), and sparky older woman Jessie (Janet Pringle).

Though outnumbered, the men (including Rod, Graham Bilton, and Liam, Clark Howard) hold their own.

Alison Taylor’s Ruth attracted some of the loudest laughs, particularly her need of Dutch courage before stripping off, but it is her journey and gained confidence which won rapturous applause.

Hospital porter-come-photographer Lawrence’s (Peter Marshall) nerves are palpable as he prepares the ladies for their photo shoot – when the cast, fully in their stride, brought the house down with their derobing escapades.

But it’s not just about the laughs. Moments of sadness, like when letters from relatives of cancer patients fall from above, remind us what it is all about.

Readman’s set design is simple and effective including a panelled backdrop of the Yorkshire hills, while the stage management (Helen Ashman), use of lighting, voiceovers, props, music (pianist Barbara Chan) and costumes (Janet Heald) all play their part in the successful delivery.

It is difficult not to be moved by the production, in association with St Leonard’s Hospice, which is both uplifting and touching, showing the strength of friendship and the far-reaching impact of Cancer.