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REVIEW: Shirley Valentine at the Everyman Theatre


REVIEW: Shirley Valentine at the Everyman Theatre

On Tuesday evening I left one kitchen and arrived at another for the opening scene of Willy Russell’s hit comedy Shirley Valentine, at the Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham.



Claire Sweeney, the star of this one-woman monologue is a familiar sight due to a career spanning several decades, beginning with Channel 4's Brookside and more recently in the BBC comedy Scarborough. As Shirley Valentine, Claire is superb. She is endearing and funny and was perfectly cast for the part.

The devoted Liverpudlian wife and mother Shirley Bradshaw prepares her husband egg and chips for tea. Feeling a little bit flamboyant she pours herself a glass of wine and is immediately dreaming of faraway shores, sunny climes and a time when she was simply Shirley Valentine, a young woman with dreams and aspirations. Shirley longs to travel and see grapes growing for herself in a warmer climate. She pours her heart out to us (and the hitchen wall) and as a result we befriended her.  When the opportunity of a holiday with her friend Jane arises the allure of two weeks of sun, sea and sand is hard to resist, and Shirley Bradshaw is at odds with Shirley Valentine. We really want her to be happy and to take that giant leap into the unknown, leaving her mundane life behind. Just go Shirley, you know you want to…

The second half of the production sees Shirley’s dream come to fruition and she is on a sun soaked Greek island, but left high and dry by Jane (who managed to ensnare a new distraction on the plane). However, Shirley is happy and content. The wall she entrusted with her feelings in her kitchen is now a rock, but another good listener. She re-evaluates her life, stands on her own two feet and has her self-esteem restored by a Greek taverna owner called Costa. She decides to remain in Greece where she is happy, and the transformation back to Shirley Valentine is complete.  

We all know that Shirley will be OK – she’s become an independent woman and is even prepared to share her new vision with her husband Joe. A visit is on the cards and Shirley is quietly hopeful that they will fall back in love with each other and become the couple they once were. 


This is an uplifting story which is beautifully portrayed by Claire and one that the whole audience thoroughly enjoyed. I think most of the audience would agree that there’s a little bit of Shirley Valentine in all of us.

Greek Islands anyone?

Shirley Valentine runs until Saturday 22 February. 


Explore Gloucestershire
19 February 2020


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