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Shirley Valentine at Milton keynes Theatre

Published by: Alison Smith on 28th Mar 2017 | View all blogs by Alison Smith

Reviewed by Alison Smith 27th March 2017

Poster SV 

I have allowed myself to lead this little life, when inside me there was so much more. And it’s all gone unused. And now it never will be.’

This is just one of Shirley Bradshaw’s - née Valentine - lines by Willy Russell in his play Shirley Valentine and it encapsulates a universal truth – that we all have great potential within us. Jodie Prenger totally fulfils her potential in her role as Shirley Valentine.  It is true that she has an excellent script to work with, but alone on stage for two hours, Jodie captivates the audience with her sincerity, physicality and an obvious deep enjoyment of the part. Jodie becomes Shirley Valentine. 

Russell’s truthful portrayal of a middle-woman who regrets her dull existence is written with both wit and heartfelt emotion. Take away the quips and banter and what is left is the grey, lonely monotony of daily life for this woman who has few choices.  But Russell gives us a feisty woman with bittersweet lines and so we temporarily forget that her best friend is Wall, that her husband is domineering, that her children have left. The wit is earthy and northern… ‘I’m not saying she’s a bragger, but if you’ve been to Paradise, she’s got a season ticket’. ‘Sex is like supermarkets, you know, overrated. Just a lot of pushing and shoving and you still come out with very little at the end’.

SV imge copyright Manuel Harlan

image copyright Manuel Harlan

Jodie Prenger makes the script meaningful; her timing is impeccable, her delivery faultless and her body language truthful. The audience becomes her friend – much like Wall, and later Rock – and acts as her confidante – through flashbacks and clever impersonations we know Shirley, and so become complicit in her actions. 

At times the play seems somewhat dated; in 2017, 42 is not considered middle-aged, women do have choices and kitchens are not normally painted mustard.  There is also a great discrepancy in the settings of the Acts. In Act 1 the kitchen and utensils are carefully chosen to represent the 80s – a flowery cutting board, a round, white Fairy bottle,  sculpted pine doors. In Act 2, however, the setting is crude – large lumps of shiny black rock and a Marjorelle blue backdrop. 

None of this can detract, however, from the treat that this play is. It talks of the human condition, its loneliness and sadness and it underlines that with humour and drive, dreary lives can become exciting lives just as Shirley Valentine on her Greek island testifies.

'Dreams. They are never in the place you expect them to be'.

Shirley Valentine is at Milton Keynes Theatre from Monday 27th March to Saturday 1st April

 0844871 7652 

Booking fee applies




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