Review : Shirley Valentine , Theatre Royal Nottingham

As a teenager in the 80s I remember being amused by the film Shirley Valentine without really understanding that for many women the life Shirley wanted to escape from was normal in many a household up and down the UK.

As my love for theatre grew and I discovered other works by Willy Russell (most notably Blood Brothers) I was interested to learn that Shirley Valentine started out as a one-character play in 1986 and I was looking forward to seeing how this would be brought to life.
Some 30 years on and this revival directed by Glen Walford sees the beautiful Jodie Prenger take on this cast of one in this touring production.

Act one is based in Liverpool in Shirley’s fully functioning 80s style family kitchen (it looks like the one my parents had) where we (and “the wall”) are entertained with Shirley’s many tales of her children leaving home, the nosey neighbour, old school enemies, new friend Jane and of course the expectations husband Joe has of his wife. All this dialogue is performed in a perfect scouse accent and all whilst cooking chips and egg and drinking a glass of wine.
I loved the scene change in act one where one of crew stole a chip and downed the remaining wine – nice touch.
We discover Jane has asked Shirley on a two week trip to Greece and even paid for the tickets and after a row over the lack of steak at the dinner table Shirley has decided to go without telling Joe…
Act two and we are transported to Greece where we learn of Jane leaving Shirley to fend for herself after hooking up with a guy from the plane. Shirley then brings to life the story of her encounter with Costas the owner of the nearby Tavena and the realisation that she had not fallen in love with Costas but actually with the idea of living, prompting Shirley to turn around at the airport and remain in Greece. We are left wondering what will happen between Shirley and Joe as she awaits his arrival some weeks later…

This play is funny with some brilliantly delivered one-liners, light-hearted and easy to follow making for a relaxing laugh out loud evening whilst still allowing you to wonder if you have fulfilled your dreams.
Whether you enjoyed the story or not, Jodie’s performance alone was completely deserving of the standing ovation she received – to stand up there and remember that much dialogue with no musical numbers to hide behind and no other cast members to use as prompts is a gift to be recognised.

Obviously the moth felt Jodie needed some company and was an impromptu distraction handled with ease and amusement J
Well done Jodie, I knew you would be fabulous and you didn’t let me, Nottingham or Willy Russell down.
And of course in today’s society people think nothing of going away with the girls for a holiday abroad and leaving the men to fend for themselves and maybe some of that is down to Shirley Valentine…

I couldn’t write this review straight away on Monday due to the sad news that emerged as I arrived home from a lovely evening. I will end though on this note – don’t stay away, Jodie is too good to miss.
Shirley Valentine, Theatre Royal Nottingham until 27th May

Post Author: Marie Addison