CREAGH/CARR REVIEW: Shirley Valentine

Shirley Valentine
Shirley Valentine

You get two for the price of one with the Creagh/Carr Review - the opinions of seasoned hackette Bev Creagh and flamboyant newshound Stewart Carr. Here’s what they thought of Willy Russell’s Shirley Valentine, at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday, April 1.

CREAGH SAYS ... Eat your heart out, Pauline Collins! I really thought Jodie Prenger (in this one-woman version) was going to battle to overcome her predecessor’s iconic movie portrayal of the Liverpool housewife whose world consisted of preparing her husband’s dinner and talking to the wall.

But she was absolutely stunning. She was Shirley Valentine to a T. The Scouse accent wobbled occasionally, as did the statuesquely built Ms Prenger when she was sashaying round the stage.

But her comic timing was impeccable, the perfect vehicle for Willy Russell’s warm and witty script which occasionally seems dated but on the whole has stood the test of time.

Shirley’s comment that ‘marriage is like the Middle East, there’s no solution’ - is as relevant today as it was when it was written 30 years ago.

The play could have done with some judicial editing but Prenger, who won BBC1’s I’d Do Anything, had the audience in the palm of her hand from start to finish, winning a well-deserved standing ovation.

My only criticism: An unjustified yearning for Tom Conti.

CARR SAYS ... A wry and witty one-woman show with a feminist bite – and yet written by a man – there’s enough intrigue surrounding Shirley Valentine to make it appeal to both male and female viewers.

I have to say, I had my doubts at first. I was expecting something quirky, a bit chick-lit and girly-girl that I’d struggle to relate to.

But from the beginning, it was obvious we were having none of that.

We’re transported straight to Shirley’s dated wooden kitchen, as she tipples on wine and inches her way along the dreary task of preparing her husband Jim’s evening meal.

Shirley – now Mrs Bradshaw – is a spirited Scouser who is locked in a daily ritual as a housewife and left with extra time on her hands now her two children have flown the nest.

Jodie Prenger as Shirley isn’t always convincing with a Scouse accent but she has the ballsy attitude and wry puns honed to perfection.

It’s enough for the audience to put to one side the spectre of Pauline Collins’ famous movie performance.

We watch as Shirley flirts with the idea of a trip to Greece but then immediately discounts it. Holidays abroad, indeed any flash of indepence seems “impossible” to Shirley, why, “Jim would go mad”.

And yet it’s while being humble and self-deprecating that Shirley recounts her adventurous youth as ‘Shirley Valentine’ and, ultimately, makes the decision to follow her dreams.

Funny, endearing and at times very moving, it’s hard not to feel empathy with Shirley Valentine. We might not all be bored housewives stuck in the early nineties, but who hasn’t wondered about their life’s direction and where a better path might take them?

Shirley Valentine plays at MK Theatre until Saturday, April 1. See HERE for tickets.