Susannah Douch enjoy a nostalgic evening at the Theatre Royal, Bath
Being a fan of the original 1989 film, I was intrigued to see the transformation of this popular and cult film into a on-stage one-woman monologue by Willy Russell; telling the story of how a lonely, middle-aged Liverpudlian woman swaps her dull life for a new one in Greece, to rediscover her lost youth and start living again.
Sitting in the Theatre Royal, the audience clearly knew the original script so well, you could hear the anticipation and drawn breath before each comical (and sometimes shocking) moment, as we watched this performance marking the 30th Anniversary of the film.
Jodie Prenger, who won the hearts of the nation winning the reality show “I’d Do Anything” to gain the role of Nancy in the hit musical Oliver!, excelled in the role of Shirley effortlessly switching between the different accents of the various characters as she recounted stories past and present. Her energy filled the stage, drawing us into the pain of her unhappy marriage and empathising with her on an emotional journey as she decides to go on a holiday to Greece, unbeknown to her husband and family in Liverpool.
Despite Prenger’s strong performance and her ability to ‘tell’ the different characters’ stories, I have to admit that I missed the chemistry between Shirley and the other key characters in the film. One of the ‘magical’ moments in the story is the change from wet, dark Liverpool to hot, sunny, glorious Greece, reflecting Shirley’s transformation from bored, drab Housewife to a vibrant, happy 40 something rediscovering herself. Sadly, the stage version with it’s basic and slightly uninspiring two set designs did little to achieve this contrast and particularly to ‘create’ the Greek resort.
However, Prenger is without doubt extremely good, showing her strength and adaptability within this role, thoroughly deserving of the standing ovations she received at the end.
Shirley Valentine is on at the Theatre Royal Bath until Saturday 15th April.