Shirley Valentine at the Theatre Royal Plymouth Review

16-21 October 2017

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Reviewed by Linda Curtain

With Shirley Valentine being one of my favourite films, I was delighted to be given the chance to review the stage production of this play at the Theatre Royal in Plymouth last evening (16 October 2017).

This play, which premiered at the Liverpool Everyman Theatre in 1986, is part of a 30th Anniversary revival tour. Like me, many people will be familiar with the 1989 film starring Pauline Collins and Tom Conti so l was interested to see how the stage production compared to the iconic film.

This one-woman show tells the story of a middle aged Liverpudlian housewife who, after raising a family, has now reached a plateau in her life where her days seems to consist of pandering to her unappreciative husband and talking to the wall in her kitchen, which she uses as a sounding board for her frustrations. When she is given the chance to accompany her friend on a two-week holiday to Greece, she initially dismisses the idea but after much soul-searching (and wall-talking!) she goes on her travels and discovers the real Shirley Valentine again.

I am sure many of the predominantly female audience last night could well relate to this character and her dilemmas. Once the family have grown away there comes a time when mothers wonder -How about me? Where did my life go?

Jodie Prenger has taken the lead role for much of the tour but the lead has been handed to Nicky Swift for the Plymouth production and she was brilliant in the role. How a sole cast member can remember faultlessly an entire script while using different accents and characterisation for the people she is talking with was amazing. Her comedy timing was impeccable and the whole theatre was silent while listening intently to her dialogue. Praise must also be given to the sound crew as the sound quality was great with every word being clearly heard.

The scenery was kept simple but well in keeping with the 1980’s. The kitchen in the first scene where Shirley cooked egg and chips on stage was a true flash back to the 80s. The second scene moved to a beach in Greece where a rock replaced the kitchen wall as Shirley’s sounding board. I did feel that the beach scene somewhat lacked the picturesque serenity of the film but appreciate that this would be difficult to capture on stage.

It was great to see Nicky Swift receive a well-deserved standing ovation from the appreciative audience last evening.

The play runs all week at the Theatre Royal Plymouth – a great venue with easy nearby parking and a great coffee shop and bar facilities.

A brilliant evening’s entertainment with Willy Russell’s fantastic script giving you comedy, heart-warming moments and much thought provoking material. Maybe an escape to Greece is what we all need!

Well done Nicky Swift and Plymouth Theatre Royal for another great production.

Rating: 4.5/5

Tickets cost from £10 to £31.50 (booking fees may apply).

Shirley Valentine is at the Theatre Royal in Plymouth from16-21 October 2017, for more information or to book tickets visit www.theatreroyal.com or call the box office on 01752 267222.

Theatre Royal Plymouth, Royal Parade, Plymouth, PL1 2TR | 01752 267222

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