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A major revival of Willy Russell's play Shirley Valentine starring Meera Syal and directed by Glen Walford - a transfer from the Menier Chocolate Factory in South London.
Meet Shirley: a middle-aged Liverpudlian housewife who talks to the wall whilst preparing her husband's egg and chips. She's in a rut. What has happened to her life? When her best friend wins an all-expenses-paid vacation for two to Greece she packs her bags, heads for the sun and starts to see the world and herself rather differently...
Meera Syal reprises her critically acclaimed performance in the title of Shirley Valentine in London at the Trafalgar Studios. Prior to this the production was staged, again in repertory with Educating Rita, at the Menier Chocolate Factory from 26 March 2010 to 8 May 2010.
"Willy Russell's Shirley Valentine and Educating Rita have been paired together and brought to the West End from the Fringe. Currently playing to delighted audiences of mostly women, they are one of London's genuine summer treats. ... The evening is a triumph for Meera Syal, a wonderful Shirley, whose one woman performance is a great feat of soul-baring and mimicry, giving us invisible characters you can almost see - namely her sullen husband, her ghastly daughter and a posh neighbour who talks through her teeth. And, of course, there's the randy, insincere Costas she meets on her Greek island, who can be forgiven everything because 'he kissed my stretch marks'... Perhaps some of the comedy has faded over time. Shirley talking to the kitchen wall, for example, seems a bit twee. But what a role for an actress. Shirley lives and breathes, and her yearning is as real as it ever was. Russell wrote the play ostensibly about sexism, class, poverty of expectation and so on. It seems to have now taken on a new lease of life as a drama about our society's saddest epidemic: loneliness." The Mail on Sunday
"Willy Russell has been down from Liverpool to advise his latest Shirley Valentine, Meera Syal - resisting the temptation to make any allusions to her being Asian... Syal's show is the triumph. She invests this brilliantly witty monologue with all her considerable comic energy without ever short-changing us on the sadness of a middle-aged life in limbo... Giving us a good Scouse accent, give or take the odd vowel that hurtles south, she relays Shirley's domestic frustration and foreign liberation with energy and care." The Times
Willy Russell's Shirley Valentine was commissioned by the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool where it premiered in 1986 directed by Glen Walford. Two years later it was staged in London at the Vaudeville in a production starring Pauline Collins and directed by Simon Callow, this production transferred to the Duke of York's Theatre and run for a total of just over two years, winning the Olivier Award for 'Best Comedy'. In addition Pauline Collins took the play to Broadway where won the Tony Award for 'Best Actress in a Play' and again reprised the role on screen for the 1988 film version, winning a BAFTA Award gaining an Oscar nomination.
Shirley Valentine in London at the Trafalgar Studio 1 (in repertory with Educating Rita) previews from 20 July 2010, opened on 26 July 2010 and closed on 30 October 2010.