The 2017 Autumn/Winter season at your local theatres are starting up again, and the first in the line-up for me is Shirley Valentine at the Norwich Theatre Royal. Willy Russell’s heart-warming comedy premiered in 1986, and was later adapted into an Oscar nominated film (of the same name) in 1989, and now it’s back on a UK tour for its 30th anniversary.
Put simply, it tells the story of a Liverpudlian housewife whose children have left home and husband barely notices her – she spends a life talking to the wall. Spontaneously, her best friend offers her a two week trip to Greece – an offer she can’t refuse, and a holiday that allows her to see herself and the world in a new light…
The premise is simple, and at times the story feels a little repetitive, however I think it kind of needs to be as it’s all part of the emphasis on her dilemma in life, and her loneliness. But that said, this is an incredibly clever piece of writing; it’s not easy to make a two hour one-woman show, let alone keep a packed audience engaged throughout yet Willy Russell has created the perfect example. Better yet, it’s a story that I think many people, women especially, can relate to in one way or another.
Starring Jodie Prenger, who won over the nations heart in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s series I’d Do Anything back in 2008. Since starring as Nancy (Oliver!) in the West End, she has mostly spent her time doing successful UK tours of popular shows – and this is no exception. There’s no denying she’s an incredible talent, and I can’t imagine the work that goes into doing a one-woman show – plus, she cooks egg and chips live on stage each night! (in which the stagehand sneakily eats a chip in aid of “clearing up”!) She’s natural with comic-timing, and radiates a warmth that gets you transfixed.
Overall, at first glance the show feels dated, but you soon get sucked into her world and realise the dilemmas she is dealing with are still very modern – therefore it quickly turns into a brilliantly funny and clever show. It’s the perfect reminder that if you’re not happy with the situation you’re in, it isn’t too late to make a change. And it all ended with a well-deserved standing ovation, which evidently meant a lot to Jodie. Catch it while you can.
Shirley Valentine runs at the Norwich Theatre Royal until Saturday 9th September. For more information or to book visit theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk / shirley-valentine.com. Also look out for Prenger’s return to Norwich in Fat Friends next year, which is now booking.