What a wonderful monologue it is, Willy Russell’s original 1986 stage version of Shirley Valentine. Funny, truthful, and full of complex layers of performance and self-reflection, Shirley Valentine’s chats with herself – and us, and her kitchen wall – come close to telling the whole story of 20th century British womanhood, as she contemplates a first-ever holiday in Greece with her friend Jane, and begins to move out from under her 20-year role as a wife and mother, to rediscover the laughing, adventurous girl she once was.
King’s Theatre, Edinburgh ****
At the King’s Theatre this week, stage and screen star Jodie Prenger, of I’d Do Anything fame, plays Shirley with a passion and vulnerability that’s immensely moving, as she leads us through this story of a Liverpool everywoman, from the moment when she puts her husband Joe’s egg and chips on the table just as the door slams to announce his return from work, to the moment when, from the strength of her new life on a Greek island, she invites him to join her for a drink at a table by the sea.
As a Lancashire girl, Josie manages Shirley’s Liverpool accent pretty well, and her Liverpool humour to perfection. And although the sheer brilliance of Russell’s writing has made Shirley’s story a familiar one over the years, it’s still difficult not to stand up and cheer as Shirley uses all the resources she has – her energy, her wit, and her zest for life – to win back that precious sense of autonomy that is every human being’s birthright, and is nonetheless so easy to lose, among all the pressures of everyday life.
Final performances today