Review: Shirley Valentine at the New Theatre

Jodie Prenger playing the role of Shirley Bradshaw

by Maria Mellor 

Sitting in the theatre waiting for the show to start, you can get a sense of what this play is about. Apart from the buddy I brought to watch it with me, there was hardly another man in sight. Regardless of gender, both of us came out at the end saying how much we loved it!

The one woman show starred Jodie Prenger – the winner of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s tv show I’d Do Anything – as a middle-aged mother and wife, Shirley Bradshaw. She’s stuck in a rut and decides to escape to Greece where she rediscovers her true self. It’s a symbol of female power with a woman turning from her everyday situation to set herself free.

The nature of the production with only one actor involved had me suspicious – this kind of thing is so tricky to pull off. To do so you need one extremely talented actress, and boy did they find one. Prenger was incredible. You could picture Shirley’s friends and family exactly as she described, and really got to know the character through just the simple act of making egg and chips for her husband.

The set was also very well done. While the cast was stripped back to its bare bones, the production went whole-hog with the two different sets. The kitchen where the first act took place was planned down to the finest detail and she even made her dinner live on stage, cutting up potatoes and frying two eggs. It is unfortunately in rather stark contrast to the beach scene in act 2 which had a fabric sea and iridescent rainbow rocks, meaning it lacked the blatant realism of the previous scene, however Prenger moved about, using it to her advantage.

The play was funny, witty and relatable. It almost makes me want to go to Greece and work in a taverna to share the same epiphany as Shirley.

“I used to be The Mother. I used to be The Wife. But now I’m Shirley Valentine again.”