Saturday, July 13

Shirley Valentine – Royal Lyceum Theatre

It’s easy to get stuck in life’s daily routine, to lose all excitement in life due to duty and obligation. Shirley is a mother whose kids have grown up and left home, a wife to a man who still requires babying and all in all a shell of her former lively self. For Shirely life’s about making her husband’s dinner and talking to the kitchen wall, a life unsatisfied and without risk or excitement, that is until her friend hands her a ticket to Greece. 2 Weeks abroad without the husband or kids… or at least that was the plan, now she’s met a man and discovered the true Shirley Valentine once more.

Shirley Valentine is a brilliantly written one woman play that really makes you think about life and how it shapes us. It makes you think about who you are, how you got to where you are and reminds you that it’s never too late to seek out change or improvement. The play is witty and fun whilst also emotionally stimulating. You find yourself wanting to scream “Just go for it!” at the stage, but deep down you understand Shirley’s struggles and motivations, we all hold ourselves back, blame it on life or money and then settle.

Sally Reid is perfect in the role of Shirley, she is sweet and honest with every character insecurity feeling true and natural to Reid. We don’t feel at any point of the show that we are watching an actor trying to tell a story, instead we are immediately seeing a 42 year old scouse housewife who’s completely devoid of confidence, but has the most compelling and likeable personality. We see that with just that bit of confidence this woman could be so much more. It’s a difficult task holding an audience for over an hour but Reid makes it seem effortless and the time flies by.

The set choices for the show are perfect, for the first act we have ourselves a simple kitchen planted centre stage with darkness surrounding. Not only does it serve to give Reid plenty to interact with but it highlights how small Valentine’s world is, the world outside is dark, empty but the kitchen is also nothing special. It is devoid of love, there are no children’s drawings on the fridge or personal touches, just like Shirley it is usable and safe but it’s lost its personality. The children have moved out and the love within the house has faded away and yet life continues. 

Act 2 however we are met with Greece but this time the naturalism is gone, we have ourselves a couple of rocks that Shirely has taken a liking to and a table and chairs which once again allow Reid to utilise her space and story tell. But the rest of the set is made up of glowing cubes of yellows and blues, we know these represent the colours of paradise but they also give us light and a possibility of a new exciting world yet to be formed for Valentine, the set is no longer a stationary location but instead a uncertain future that is yet to be built.

Whilst the majority of the audience that had attended seemed to be the older generation who were fans of the original 1989 movie of the same title, I personally had not seen the movie (although my mother who was in attendance said it was very similar) but would recommend any adult audience to attend this show. It’s a feel good piece with spectacular acting and really makes you think about life and the choices you should be making from here on out. It is seasoned with adult humour and would not be suitable for children but I don’t think it’s a show that would benefit them much anyway, this is one for us adults.

Shirley Valentine plays at The Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh until the 29th June.

Reviewer: Beth Eltringham

Reviewed: 13th June 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.
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