Shirley Valentine 1

PHOTOGRAPHS: MANUEL HARLAN

Expectations were varied at the New Victoria last night as the audience filed in to see the latest touring production of Willy Russell’s Shirley Valentine. Some expected a musical, recalling that the star had cut her teeth winning the singing and dancing role of Nancy for a London production of Oliver. Others assumed it would follow the lines of the film starring Pauline Collins and Tom Conti. But what we were in for was Russell’s original play and that proved to be the setting for a masterclass of a one-woman show – and what a delight in the process.

Jodie Prenger gave us a truly believable and entertaining Shirley Valentine throughout the evening. This is one of two Russell plays in which women successfully fight against their lot in life, the other being Educating Rita, and in listening in to Shirley’s talks with her “walls” and her “rock”, her private way of release, you sense her frustration as well as her underlying determination to find something better.

But as Shirley reviews her life we get the highs and the lows and we get a lot of comedy. Two gems that I appreciated were her son’s nativity play and her Greek boyfriend coming to collect her for a day’s fishing – but there are many more similar moments. Cleverly directed by Glen Welford and a set designed by Amy Yardley, a visit should go into your diary.

[Dermot Hoare 14 March 2017]

Shirley Valentine is running at Woking’s New Victoria theatre from Tuesday 14 March to Saturday 18 March, with matinees on Wednesday and Saturday

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