SHIRLEY VALENTINE: Willy Russell.
Theatre Royal: Tkts 0115 989 5555 www.royalcentre-nottingham.co.uk.
Runs: 2h: one interval: till 27th May.
Performance times: 7.30pm, matinees 2.00pm Wed and 2.30pm Sat.
Review: Alan Geary: 22nd May 2017.
<An excellent performance in a well-crafted play.
These days you’d have to be a sexist churl to suggest that Shirley Valentine is a girls’-night-out play – but that’s what it is. On press night, in a packed theatre, there was only the odd token man seated here and there.
To be fair though, we’re talking here mostly about the first act. After the interval it becomes clearer that this isn’t simply about the plight of a woman, or even women as a whole. It’s about the unfulfilled life in general, a recurring theme in Willy Russell’s work.
It’s an excellent text, with lots of laughs. The bits when Shirley (Jodie Prenger) looks back to the early days of her marriage are occasionally allowed to morph into cheap sentiment, but Russell is good on the Liverpudlian dialogue. “I’m not saying he’s bad,” Shirley says of her husband, “But he’s no bleedin’ good!”
She also reckons that “Marriage is like the Middle East – there’s no solution”, sadly more true now than it was in the 1980s when the play is set. It’s a period when a sun, sea and sex break was still considered a trifle exotic, let alone two middle-aged women going on their own.
The first-half kitchen set is splendidly eighties; and realistic, as is the egg and chips that Shirley is preparing for the husband – it’s a nice touch when a scene-changer pinches a left-over chip and takes a sip of Shirley’s wine on her way off stage.
Before the interval the play seems unnecessarily long for what it has to carry. But, with the helpful intervention of Costas the waiter, proceedings pick up in the Greek island second half. Shirley Bradshaw has broken free and become Shirley Valentine once again.
A lot of the audience stood for the ovation at the end, which was surely an over-reaction. All the same, Prenger’s was an excellent performance in a well-crafted play.
Shirley Valentine: Jodie Prenger.
Director: Glen Walford.
Designer: Amy Yardley.
Lighting Designer: James Whiteside.
Sound Designer: Ed Clarke.