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Shirley Valentine (UK Tour), New Victoria Theatre | Review


Shirley Valentine
New Victoria Theatre
Reviewed on Monday 13th March 2017 by Glenys Balchin
★★

I am old enough to have seen the Oscar nominated Shirley Valentine film nearly thirty years ago but never the play. Therefore I was not sure whether or not I would enjoy the one woman show without the famous Costas played by Tom Conti in the film. But I was not disappointed. Jodie Prenger shone as brightly as Pauline Collins had thirty years ago as Shirley Valentine.  


For the duration of two hours Jodie Prenger marched and swaggered to dominate the stage and all the time cleverly engaging and drawing in her the audience.  You totally forgot she was on her own as she brought the other characters to life on stage. I would certainly recommend this show to my friends but with the caveat that they are women of a certain age.


The play itself is about a bored and disillusioned Liverpudlian housewife who is trying to find her identity and get back her “unused life”. Her adventures starts when her best friend invites her to go to Greece on holiday with her. She takes up the offer of a trip as she feels dissatisfied, neglected and ignored by her husband and family, now that her children have flown the nest. She goes to Greece for a two week holiday but decides to stay and as she feels no one would miss her at home.  


Don’t be mistaken into thinking this is a Greek tragedy, it is a heartfelt emotional comedy with Jodie Prenger performing with impeccable comedic timing to make you laugh and cry at the same time. Willy Russell is amazing in understanding the psyche and intellect of women. This comedy may have been written three decades ago, 1986 to be exact, but is still just as relevant today, which in a way is a sad thing for me to have say, as you would have thought that we would have moved on. On saying that the age of the leading lady probably would now be older and there certainly are more opportunities for women these days to follow, as long as they have the right encouragement at home.


As for depicting the era I thought the kitchen set was a throwback of my Mum’s kitchen in the eighties when I was growing up so, for me it was a real nostalgic trip down memory lane. I thought it was a good decision to keep to the original decade of when the play was written rather than updating to the current day. The special effect when Jodie Prenger cooks eggs and chips during the play added an authentic touch plus Jodie really knew how to work the kitchen so fully believable. 


My only criticism on not depicting the 80’s accurately would be Jodie’s hair which was more the fifties style rather than over permed shaggy haircut or that of the late Lady Diana’s hair style. The music could have been more eighties and when she was in Greece a little bit more Zorba but that may have distracted from the performance.


There is no doubt that Prenger owns the stage and mesmerises her audience with her larger than life personality which carries this revival of Shirley Valentine from the opening to the curtain call. To give an amazing performance like Jodie delivered must be attributed to the way she has been directed by the legendary Glen Walford, who has skilfully nurtured Jodie’s talent to enable her to deliver a fast-paced performance which does not falter nor lose energy from the fast paced monologue.


My first thought of seeing Shirley Valentine is that it would feel out-dated, not funny and never equal the performance of Pauline Collins, so I was very happy to say that I have been proven totally wrong.  The Willy Russell script has clearly stood the test of time, and Jodie Prenger was absolutely sensational in the part.  It was a great night at the theatre it made me laugh but at the same time I came home thinking about my own “Unused Life”. 


If you are a woman of a certain age then this show is a must for you, it will make you laugh, give you great pleasure and happiness a real nostalgic trip back to the eighties. 


Shirley Valentine runs at the New Victoria theatre until March 18th 2017 before continuing on its UK Tour

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