Theatre Review: Shirley Valentine - King's Theatre, Glasgow ✭✭✭✭

Review by Sharman Prince

30 years after its premiere at Liverpool's Everyman Theatre, Willy Russell's one-woman play "Shirley Valentine" hits the road in a superb anniversary tour starring the the engaging Jodie Prenger as the eponymous heroine.

Shirley Bradshaw (née Valentine) spends her days talking to the kitchen wall, bored with her life spent serving her husband and the few associates she has. When a friend offers her the chance of a two week holiday in Greece she decides to grasp the opportunity and start living the life she has long been aching for.

The production is a bright and appealing one with a design concept divided across the two acts; the realistic smart, clean kitchen with its bold yellow walls of Act One contrasting with the brighter, more abstract realisation - as if seen through Shirley's eyes - of Greece in Act Two. Such contrast is reflected in the direction of Glen Walford, who returns to the play after directing the premiere production three decades previous. There are a few moments which could be tighter and the odd bit of business that feels superfluous but otherwise Walford's direction is solid and engaging, consummately matched with Willy Russell's writing which is blessed with much word-play in turn humorous, witty, poignant and philosophical with Shirley dealing with the isolation of a life much wasted, musing on the trials and tribulations of human nature and life in general.

Jodie Prenger makes a wonderful 'Shirley Valentine' and her innate warmth and likability aids in her sympathetic, self deprecating portrayal of a woman coming to terms with the negative quality of her life before embarking on a journey of self discovery, ultimately commencing a life of worth and value, of joy and hope. Prenger's only minor flaw is that occasionally her Liverpudlian dialect becomes a little unsure, but this never detracts from a funny and emotional performance that bursts with pathos and life and is worthy of much praise: Prenger is a truly appealing performer and continues to grow and develop as such, pushing herself with each new role she undertakes, furthering her talents which continue to triumph in each new production.

"Shirley Valentine" speaks volumes to the middle-aged audience member, who may empathise with much that Shirley speaks of, and acts as a caution that life is for living and it is never too late to start doing so. There is always some semblance of joy to be had in life but often one has to reach out and take it. Willy Russell's play is a positive reminder to do so and this splendid production communicates the message admirably.

Shirley Valentine is at the King's Theatre Glasgow until Saturday 7th May. For tickets and information visit ATG Tickets