THEATRE REVIEW: The Calendar Girls, Liverpool Empire
The Wirral-born playwright has a knack of drawing out what is unusual in people's lives, while at the same time reminding the audience of how much they have in common with what is happening on stage.
In a scene in Calendar Girls, the women take it in turns to read letters sent to them by others who have lost a loved one to cancer.
It's a poignant moment, not just because it highlights how one Women's Institute branch touched thousands of people across the world, but because every single person in the theatre was thinking about someone they know who has died of the disease, or has survived it, or who they would be devastated to see to develop it.
It's a show full of poignant moments - about friendship, determination and hope; about loss in many forms; about the importance of acceptance; about knowing when to let go.
But it also offers plenty of humour, as the six friends and WI members decide to pose nude for a calendar to raise money to buy a settee in the visitor's waiting room of the local oncology ward.
Liverpool actor Joe McGann, with shaven head, puts in a nicely understated performance as John, the man whose death kicks starts the whole mission.
Rab C Nesbitt actor Elaine C Smith and Julia Hills (2Point4 Children) are solid as the best-friends at the centre of the drama, and Liverpool's own Jennifer Ellison plays busty blonde Celia with a lot of charm.
Latecomer Anne Charleston, who took over the part of retired schoolteacher Jessie at the last minute when Jean Boht fell ill, brings a lot of comedy to what is really a supporting role.
But it is Rachel Lumberg as the put-upon people pleaser Ruth who truly steals the show.
The first half is a stream of Christmas parades, flower arranging, Jerusalem-singing and Easter fetes, before John's death, ending with plenty of cheeky flashes of flesh as the women have their pictures taken for the calendar.
It plods a bit and you wonder how the plot will sustain itself after the interval, but the second half reveals more about the characters and their relationships.
At curtain call, it's the real life women that receive the standing ovation as a plaque descends to reveal they have raised more than ÃÂ£2m for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research.