Shirley Valentine

Willy Russell

The Lyric, Theatre Royal Plymouth

From 16 October 2017 to 21 October 2017

Review by Karen Bussell

Willy Russell’s iconic kitchen sink/Greek beach voyage of self-discovery is back on tour some 29 years after its first outing. Somewhat dated, slightly pedestrian but still charming and a grey audience pleaser.

Insightful Russell’s rich script has some great one-liners which stand the test of time with Nicky Swift an endearing, believable Scouser housewife talking to the wall and serving up live chips ’n’ eggs bang on time.

Swift is impressive. Her dilemma and delight is palpable as she channels her inner teenage self to head for sun, sand and, perhaps, the F-plan diet consumed on that elusive island ordinarily overlooked by man. It’s a tough two-hour plus monologue but Swift’s pace and warmth is engaging.

Colourful tales are told and characters brought to life—demanding Mallinder, hippy dippy showstopper Brian and faded Joe rub shoulders with posh prostitutes, nosey neighbours and despairing headteachers as an increasingly feisty Shirley paints a vibrant picture of her life and times, talking herself into the chance escape of a lifetime.

Director Glen Watford’s careful orchestration saves the one-handed piece from the mundane—it’s an awful lot of talking for a solo artiste and could so easily be a drone-fest. Instead, despite the overstated costuming and Amy Yardley's rather artificial seascape, this revival is funny, poignant and watchable.