It’s an incredible 30 years since playwright Willy Russel introduced the world to Shirley Valentine and what better way to celebrate than to bring her out of the kitchen for an anniversary tour.
The play which has travelled the world winning a string of awards as well as being made into a film starring Pauline Collins which earned both BAFTAs and Academy Award nominations is as iconic as the Liver Birds. 40 something Shirley is trapped, drowning in a life which has lost all its spark, where the most important job she has is getting her husband’s tea on the table and her best conversations are with the kitchen wall. Downtrodden and deflated Shirley is tired with what life has become until one day out of the blue she’s offered the opportunity to inject some adventure, in the form of 2 weeks in Greece with her single pal Jane.
Taking on the role of Shirley in this one woman piece, is Jodie Prenger, she finds the warmth and humour within as she delivers a heart-warming and gratifying performance. Possessing all the grit, determination, humour and vulnerability of the Shirley we all know and love as well as ramping up the humour with her skilful and entertaining depiction of the various characters which inhibit Shirley’s world. She glides with ease from one character to the next, breathing fresh life into the pages of Russel’s much loved work. Prenger is a force to be reckoned with, commanding the full attention of a packed out Lowry theatre, she delivers a wholly believable and deeply touching performance, audience laughter is closely followed by thoughtful reflection as Prenger finds the true heart of Shirley as her desperation for more becomes painfully clear.
Russel’s familiar themes of loneliness and inequality are just as relevant today as they were when he originally penned Shirley. His writing is sharp and poignant, offering humour, depth and a fine understanding of the way many women see the world. Director Glen Walford makes great use of the material allowing Prenger to take this piece and really make it shine. Designer Amy Yardley’s kitchen set in Act I is impressive, allowing Shirley to cook up her chips and egg without missing a beat of the mighty monologue she delivers.
This is a fun, feel-good and thought-provoking production which like Shirley really gains momentum when our heroine chases her dream and starts to really live. A wonderful revival, which will make audiences fall in love with Shirley all over again.
On at The Lowry until Saturday tickets available here https://www.thelowry.com/events/shirley-valentine