Updated: Feb 26, 2020
Library Theatre, Bolton
10 February 2020 - 29 February 2020; 2hrs
For the Octagon’s production of this much loved play, director Lotte Wakeman and actress Mina Anwar decided to move it from its original setting of Liverpool to Lancashire – with writer Willy Russell’s consent. So gone is Shirley Valentine’s scouse accent and in comes a Lancashire one. Out go the references to Merseyside, and in come references to Rawtenstall and Manchester. This, the Lancashire-born actress told the audience after the performance, makes the play “ours” – and it works.
Shirley Valentine is trapped in a lifeless existence and a marriage that has lost its soul. We first meet her in her kitchen, where she is making egg and chips for her unappreciative husband and talking to the wall. The intimate Library Theatre (the Octagon is still undergoing its major refurbishment) takes us right into the kitchen – you can even hear and smell the chips cooking.
Shirley has a butterfly on her jumper but is frightened of spreading her own wings and living life beyond the wall. Then she is given an unexpected opportunity to escape the kitchen and become “Shirley the Brave”.
Mina Anwar is excellent as Shirley. Yes, she has a gift of a script, but it is no mean feat to single-handedly hold an audience for nearly two hours, being by turns brash, tender and very funny. By the end of the play we are all reminded about what it really means to love and to live.
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