‘Shirley Valentine’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by July 7, 2016

‘Shirley Valentine’ is one of Willy Russell’s most loved plays. It is a one-character play written by the Liverpudlian playwright and composer while still in his thirties. This hilarious play premiered 1986 in Liverpool, but it was Pauline Collins who took the show to London and Broadway for a 324-show run.

In 1988-89, the play won Laurence Olivier Awards for Best New Comedy and Best Actress, followed by two Tony Awards, one for Best Performance by a Leading Actress and another for Best Play. It went on to win the Outstanding Broadway Debut award.

This delightful comedy is now being presented by the Kalamunda Dramatic Society Theatre (KADS) at their theatre in the Town Square, Barber Street, Kalamunda.

The curtain goes up at 8.00 pm for 130 minutes of fun and tears each Wednesday, Friday and Saturday until the 30th July.

 

Jodi Cant’s set is simple but effective. The scene is the kitchen of a working class home in Liverpool during the 1980s. A table and four chairs represent Shirley’s kitchen. The walls are flats painted pale lemon with a few black drapes. The Greek setting is a contoured lounger, with sky blue flats (built by Alistair Woodcock and Karen Woodcock-Hall). Steve Marr and Les Marshall operated Don Allen’s simple but effective lighting.

The simplicity focused the audience’s attention on the script and dazzling acting.

 

         We join 42-year-old Shirley Bradshaw – nee Valentine (Jenny Howard-McCann) – in her kitchen, peeling potatoes; yet another evening meal for her unappreciative husband. Over the years, Shirley has found that the kitchen wall is a far better friend, and more responsive, than her brain dead, boring husband.

      One day, Shirley’s best friend wins a ticket for two to Greece and suggests that they go to the Greek Isles together. Being a dutiful and conscientious wife, Shirley has grave doubts at first, and then after much discussion with ‘wall’, she realises how her lifestyle has changed with marriage, and so decides to go and rediscover her lost youth and vibrancy.

      How will her friends and family accept this unacceptable behaviour?

 

Amanda Muggleton, who, in true Amanda style, performed almost the whole of the second act completely in the nude, brought this one-woman show to Australia in the 80s. This production is still sexy, but without flesh.

The play takes the form of a 110-minute monologue, a huge task at the best of times. When you add the need for a quality Liverpool accent, the unique Scouse mannerisms and their dry innate sense of humour, the task becomes mammoth. Further, add the ability to engage the audience, as though you are gossiping in private to your best friend, whilst having the comedic ability to delivery hilarious stories that may actually incorporate tragic undertones. These demands on any actor are massive, even for a major award-winning actor like Jenny; but she shone in all departments, with a truly stunning performance. There were numerous belly laughs and a few tears. Jenny’s performance was crammed with energy, and even after a couple of hours, the pace kept bounding along.

Fabulous teamwork from the skilled director and her highly talented performer.

I can imagine a sell-out, so get your tickets quickly.