The Banbury Cross Players are about to display some naked ambition with their latest performance.

Women from the town’s amateur dramatic group are joining forces with hundreds of others from across the globe to raise both awareness of and funds for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research by staging Calendar Girls.

The play is based on the Miramax motion picture written by Juliette Towhidi and Tim Firth, and starring a host of British acting talent including Dame Helen Mirren and Julie Walters.

It is based on the real-life story of Annie Clarke, whose husband John died from leukaemia.

Annie’s close friend Chris was keen to purchase a comfortable sofa for the visitors’ lounge at the hospital where he was treated.

To raise funds, Chris hit on the idea of producing a calendar featuring members of the Women’s Institute posing nude (“not naked!”) while engaged in WI activities.

The initial print-run sold out and, before long, the village of Knapeley was bombarded with international media keen to report on the feel-good story.

The publicity took its toll on the personal lives of the women involved and their friendships were tested to the limit.

But it is a testament to the strength of the friendship and the bonds between the women involved that the rifts were healed.

John Clarke grew sunflowers from the onset of his illness and gave them to friends and family in the hope that he would have recovered by the time they flowered.

Sadly, this was not to be, but the sunflower lives on as a reminder of his life and became the symbol for the ladies’ fundraising.

Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research has continued to benefit from what the Calendar Girls of Knapeley began and Banbury Cross Players are proud to be part of an attempt to make this the most-performed play by amateur companies. Director Clare Lester said: “I was thrilled to have had so much interest and support for this production, as nudity isn’t usually what’s called for in Amateur Theatre!

“Lynden Players in Middleton Cheney offered us props from their production and I’ve even had a message from a company in New Zealand asking about our set design.”

Banbury Cross Players’ production of Calendar Girls opens tomorrow at The Mill Arts Centre, Spiceball Park Road, Banbury, OX16 5QE, and continues on Saturday, and then November 28-December 1. Tickets are available from the Mill box office at 01295 279002 or online