Shirley Valentine, Willy Russell’s comedy about a middle-aged Liverpool housewife trapped in a loveless marriage who goes to Greece first appeared in 1986 at the Liverpool Everyman Theatre before transferring to the West End and then to Broadway. It is probably more commonly known for the 1989 film starring Pauline Collins and Tom Conti, however, the original play is a one-woman show in three acts.
This revival tour starring Jodie Prenger marks the 30th anniversary of the play and Russell’s script still feels fresh in 2017. It is full of classic Willy Russell wit and Prenger makes full use of the material she has to play with.
The play opens with Shirley making chips and egg for husband Joe while she drinks wine and talks to the wall. We hear stories about her neighbourhood and her childhood including a story about meeting an old school friend who grew up to be a hooker. Russell’s descriptions and Prenger’s engaging delivery make this a particular highlight.
Although this is a one woman show, we do meet many characters. Prenger’s slightly caricature-like performances of these other characters may be a little over the top but it helps define one person from the next. As Shirley, she is very well cast, although there were moments where I feel she could have allowed the text a bit more space between each section of the play.
This is a great revival of a classic Willy Russell play that still feels relevant today. I think everyone in the audience knew someone like the characters being described by Shirley. Shirley herself has become such an iconic character and Prenger delivers on all levels making this a thoroughly enjoyable evening.
Review by Elliott Wallis
Shirley is a Liverpool housewife. Her kids have left home and she makes chips and egg for her husband while talking to the wall. Where has her life disappeared to? Out of the blue, her best friend offers her a trip to Greece for 2 weeks and she secretly packs her bags. She heads for the sun and starts to see the world and herself very differently.
Willy Russell’s heart-warming comedy premiered in 1986 and took the world by storm. It was adapted into an Oscar-nominated film. Now, on its 30th anniversary, Jodie Prenger stars in the first major revival of this national treasure.
Suitable for 14+
National Tour – Selected dates below
View full schedule
Mon 20 – Sat 25 March 2017
Richmond Theatre, Richmond, London
Mon 27 March – Sat 1st April 2017
Milton Keynes Theatre, Milton Keynes
Tue 2 – Sat 6 May 2017
King’s Theatre Glasgow, Glasgow
Mon 17 – Sat 22 July 2017
Theatre Royal Brighton, Brighton