Canal Street Online Manchester

Shirley Valentine at The Lowry

Do you remember Shirley Valentine the award-winning 1989 British romantic comedy-drama film directed by Lewis Gilbert? The screenplay by Willy Russell is based on his 1986 one-character play of the same title, which follows middle aged Shirley Valentine in an unexpected discovery of herself, and rekindling of her childhood dreams and youthful love of life.

If you do, then this new production will transport you back to that time.

Revisiting a place you enjoyed a long time ago can be disappointing. The same can be said of plays. Happily, this is not the case with this revival of Shirley Valentine. It is a slight period piece, but the script could have been put together yesterday, as the main topics it draws on are as fresh today as they were over 30 years ago – when the EU was still the EEC, and the currency of Greece was still the Drachma, as the play mentions.

Shirley (played by Jodie Prenger) is a bored housewife whose marriage, whilst not completely on the rocks, is going nowhere, and she spends a lot of her time talking to the wall. When an opportunity to break free, by taking a holiday in Greece is presented, she does so, albeit after some hesitation, but also to the unexpected admiration of her peers. The humour also hasn’t dated. Even the frequent references to the clitoris are in context – and laughingly appreciated by the mainly female audience. Shirley’s idea of the F-Plan Diet (sex for breakfast, dinner, tea and supper) also drew a lot of laughs.

The play is a huge monologue where Shirley brings to life the absentee characters. It’s a stunning achievement, The first act, split between the main thematic development and a shorter scene where she’s made up her mind to go, was brilliantly performed. The second act, where she’s in Greece, has several touching moments that gave us all pause for thought on relationships in general. There’s no time for wallowing in self-pity though, as Shirley snaps us out of our reflections with some very funny (and accurate) observations on the British abroad.

The play ends shortly after she’s turned up at the airport to go home, but then decides she can’t go back to being Shirley the housewife again. She’s taken a job at the local taverna, and is waiting for Joe (her husband) to arrive. I’d like to think it will work out for both of them.

By Paul Schofield for Canal St Online

The plays runs until Sat with full details here..

Published: 22-Jun-2017

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