SHIRLEY VALENTINE review LEEDS GRAND
Leeds Grand Theatre
by Sarah Churcher
Shirley Valentine – that wonderful, vibrant, manic, sad, trapped woman who, determined to break away from her lonely, enclosed life, makes a momentously bold move and takes a holiday, alone!
Of course, she is not supposed to be alone, she should be taking a trip to a Greek island with her friend, Jane. But it transpires that Jane is more interested in the talent she meets on the plane journey. In an instant, Shirley is on a holiday for one. But she has always been alone, our Shirley. Until she meets Costas…
This observant and clever monologue, through which Willy Russell so accurately articulates the female psyche, takes Shirley on a journey, quite literally. It helps her break away from the daily monotony that she and her husband, Joe, have found themselves trapped in. It is no-ones fault, the tedium, but Shirley is bright and generous of spirit and sensitive enough to know that she cannot change Joe, she can only change herself. She can break out and explore, she can live again.
Shirley Valentine: “A superb physical actress”
Despite having debuted 30-years ago, Russell’s writing remains extremely relevant, as well as being witty and heartfelt. For the most part Jodie Prenger (as Shirley) does justice to this affable heroine. However, at times the delivery is a little less subtle than is necessary and it feels as if she is playing for the laughs that she knows will come due to the audience’s familiarity with the humour.
Having said that, Prenger is a superb physical actress with excellent comic timing. Her ability to conjure up all manner of characters deserves praise. The parodies of those characters were, without exception, far better than her, often clumsy, best Liverpudlian.
Shirley Valentine: “Sensitivity and charm”
As we travel from Liverpool, across the shiny sea, to the golden shores of Greece, Prenger, competently articulates the feelings that this frustrated housewife has struggled with for years and the new and exciting emotions she unlocks and embraces on her journey. Prenger reminds the audience of the heartache of being a teenager, the excitement of finding love and trust in a partner and the despair that can take over when the dust settles and reality comes knocking.
There is sensitivity and charm in the way Prenger approaches the role. Plus, I must commend for her ability to hold the audience for the duration. This is a good production, it has lots to offer and succeeds in leaving you feeling uplifted and, well, frankly, ready for an Ouzo. So, as Shirley herself ends with – “Would you like to join me for a drink?”
images: Manuel Harlan