Touring – reviewed at New Victoria Theatre, Woking
Jodie Prenger makes a perfect Shirley in this one woman play about rediscovering yourself and regaining a sense of freedom, told in a lively production.
Many people who have heard of Shirley Valentine will recall the 1989 film starring Pauline Collins and Tom Conti, but Glen Walford’s touchingly funny and poignant production will still please fans of the film.
Shirley is a middle-aged Liverpudlian housewife who has become discontented with her life, lacking in confidence and purpose to the point that she spends a lot of time talking to the wall. But she is offered a lifeline thanks to her friend Jane that sees her taking a trip to Greece and rediscovering her love of life.
What is instantly charming about Willy Russell’s one-woman monologue is that while it is honest and doesn’t mince its words -adding to the humour throughout, he has created a character that many people can relate to married or not. By the end you do tend to examine you own life and wonder – how can I make my life better?
This is something that comes through very strongly in Glen Walford’s colourful and lively production that has you rooting for Shirley from beginning to end. While not much happens in front of your eyes, the way in which the production presents the story means that time still manages to fly by, flowing with ease and grace.
Of course, much of this is down to the performance of Jodie Prenger as Shirley, who manages to capture Shirley’s sharp sense of humour and relatively tough exterior, while still allowing audiences to see a more vulnerable side as she talks about her frustrations and her regrets. This balance of humour tinged at certain points – particularly when she discusses how Joe likes his evening meal – is funny but underneath there is still that a resentment of how her life is now confined to one house, with little room to to be ‘Shirley Valentine’. It is difficult to think of another actress who could fill this role with such a huge personality and still make us warm to the character.
Everything about the production is smooth, effortless,enjoyable and relatable that by the end you realise that maybe there is a little bit of Shirley Valentine in all of us. A thoroughly enjoyable evening.
Shirley Valentine continues to play at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking until Saturday 18th March, before continuing to tour. To book tickets for some of the dates visit: ATG Tickets.