Shirley Valentine at New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham

by Julie Wallis

Jodie Prenger shines as Shirley Valentine at New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham

At the New Alexandra theatre this week is Shirley Valentine. Starring Jodie Prenger in the title role.

This much loved Willy Russell play was on stage before becoming the film of the same name. Now, I’m ashamed to admit I have never seen the film so I was super excited to see the stage production and it didn’t disappoint.

Jodie Prenger is spectacular as Shirley, I hadn’t realised it was a one woman show, and seeing Ms Prenger giving 90 minutes of dialogue was an absolute delight. I defy anyone not to be impressed with a monologue: I’m sure it’s much harder than Ms Prenger made it look.

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Jodie Prenger photo by Manuel Harlan

Act one: Shirley’s kitchen. Shirley is preparing her husbands dinner of chips and egg and talking to the wall, because she gets better conversation’s with the wall. Having been offered the chance to go to Greece with her friend, somewhere she really quite desperately wants to go but she knows her husband would say no, he expects his dinner on the table every night.

Now there’s not much tension in the “will she or won’t she go” as we all know that Greece was where Pauline Collins‘ Shirley met Tom Conti as Costas in the film.

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Jodie Prenger photo by Manuel Harlan

Act two: A Greek beach. Once again Shirley is telling us the audience about her holiday, her friend and her new lover Costas. All this is done via a conversation Shirley has with her new friend Rock, a rock on the beach that makes a great replacement for Wall.

I loved the kitchen scene, the set was a perfect 1980s replica, Jodie speaks with a convincing liverpudlian accent, well I’ve only spent a weekend in Liverpool so it was good to me and Shirley makes us laugh with tales of her family, shopping trips and her discovery of the clitoris!

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The beach was also perfect, with that Greek shade of blue in the sea and the sky that seems exclusive to Greece and some wonderfully evocative lighting from lighting designer James Whiteside.

Shirley Valentine is very much easy viewing, with laughs a plenty and a lovely feelgood story. It is a perfect example of Willy Russell at his best. Willy Russell always writes such real characters and even though we the audience don’t get to meet anyone else we do really get to know all the characters that Shirley introduces us to over the course of the evening.

Jodie Prenger is the perfect actor for this part, I found her a very convincing Shirley, maybe this was because I have never seen the film, would I recommend this to everyone….yes, just as long as Shirley’s speech about the clitoris wasn’t offensive to them, it was all done in the best possible taste, but maybe difficult to explain to a younger audience member. In summery a great night out for adults.

Once again many thanks to all the staff at the New Alexandra theatre for a night full of treats.

Shirley Valentine is at New Alexandra Theatre until Saturday 11th March. Book tickets here:

Julie was invited to see Shirley Valentine for #BrumHour by New Alexandra Theatre and this is her honest view. She likes ice cream and cupcakes!