Tag Archives: Shirley Valentine

REVIEW: Shirley Valentine – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

jodie prenger against a greek seaside background

Willy Russell’s track record of successfully writing about ordinary women is almost unparalleled in popular theatre: Educating Rita, Blood Brothers and this, his 1986 effort Shirley Valentine, have repeatedly touched the hearts of the nation in both stage and film versions.

Shirley Bradshaw (Jodie Prenger) is 42, with two teenage kids who have flown the nest, an emotionally distant husband, her day to day existence leaving her resigned to (literally) talking to the egg-yolk yellow walls of her pine-clad kitchen. When her best friend offers to pay for a well-needed holiday for the pair, Shirley jumps at the chance to escape.

In the 30 years that have passed since it was written, much has changed, and women have come a long way. Despite a few dated references, and the fact that at 42, an age when many women in 2017 are only starting to contemplate having a family, 1980’s Shirley feels washed up and unable to escape her situation, Russell’s script has largely weathered the years well. That he can wring so much humour and pathos from the life of a working class Liverpudlian housewife, is a testament to his talent. It is in turn touching, resonant and laugh-out-loud funny.

That said, it’s not without fault. Essentially a 16000-word monologue, the weight of the production’s success is set firmly on the shoulders of the lead. Here, Prenger can’t rely on her impressive singing voice. Shirley’s cheeky chat and charisma, coupled with Prenger’s vivacity and heightened characterisation make it hard to believe that she doesn’t have the confidence to leave her dreary life behind. However, Prenger’s natural warmth transmits brilliantly to the audience, making us forgive her less than on-point Liverpool accent, and the audience is never not rooting for her every step of her journey.

Amy Yardley’s set design is simple, the 80s kitchen familiar to anyone who lived through the decade. Less successful is the rendering of the sun-drenched Greek island, the azure blue Mediterranean Sea more plastic camping tarpaulin than lapping waves. That said, it’s the words that matter, and those are glorious.

There’s enough here to still resonate with an audience in 2017; it’s a perfect balance of thought-provoking, self-searching, inspirational and life-affirming. It will make you, as Russell says in his script, “fall in love with the idea of living.” A British theatre classic and deservedly so.

Runs until 6 May 2017 | Image: Manuel Harlan

THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN FOR THE REVIEWS HUB HERE

WHAT’S ON MAY: Major revival of Shirley Valentine starring Jodie Prenger to tour UK in 2017

Willy Russell’s heart-warming comedy Shirley Valentine premiered in 1986 and took the world by storm. In celebration of its 30thAnniversary, the first major revival of this national treasure will embark on a UK tour in 2017. Opening on Thursday 2 March in Bromley, Shirley Valentine will star much-loved actress Jodie Prenger as Shirley.

With a career spanning over four decades, Willy Russell is undeniably one of the most successful playwrights of his generation. His plays, including Educating Rita, Blood Brothers, Our Day Out and Shirley Valentine, have been performed across the globe and have won countless awards, they continue to be in constant production throughout the world. Shirley Valentine was adapted into an Oscar-nominated film starring Pauline Collins and Tom Conti.

Of the revival Willy Russell says; “It’s now thirty years since Shirley Valentine first walked onto the page, into my life and the lives of so many others. Shirley cooked her first meal of egg and chips on the stage of the Everyman Theatre Liverpool before then hoofing it down to London where along with the cooking and talking to the wall she started picking up the string of awards she’d win in the West End, on Broadway and in the film that earned both BAFTAs and Academy Award Nominations. Since those early days, Shirley has had an incredibly rich and varied life, appearing in many tongues across  the  globe in countless productions and being performed by many great actresses. The one thing Shirley Valentine has not done of late, is extensively tour the UK. There have been approaches and plans mooted but, somehow, it’s just never quite felt right and so I’ve resisted such efforts – until now! And what has made the difference? When producer Adam Spiegel introduced me to Jodie Prenger I knew in an instant that here was a formidable actress, one who possessed the grit and the warmth, the drive and the vulnerability, the energy and the heart to make Shirley Valentine really live again. How could any playwright resist that or deny the whole of the UK the chance to see Jodie bring Shirley to life?”

Jodie Prenger is perhaps best known for winning the role of Nancy in the West End production of Oliver! through the BBC television series I’d Do Anything. Most recently Jodie toured the UK in the classic musical Tell Me On A Sunday. She also played the title role in the national tour of the musical Calamity Jane and has starred in One Man, Two Guvnors both in the West End and on tour and as Lady of the Lake in Spamalot. Jodie is also a regular presenter on BBC Radio 2

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.

Tuesday 2 – Saturday 6 May                                                           Box Office: 0844 871 7648

Glasgow, King’s Theatre                                                                  Website: www.atgtickets.com

 sv-poster-image