Shirley Valentine

Theatre Royal Bath

Until April 22

FORGET the film. This is Willy Russell’s real Shirley Valentine. OK, keep Tom Conti (from the film version) in your imagination in the background.

It is one woman’s story, yet every woman’s story – certainly judging from the audience reaction.

Jodie Prenger delivers a comprehensive one-woman performance in the title role, as a woman who rediscovers her original self, before life, marriage, motherhood, and tedium insidiously altered her identity.

Willy Russell’s script is a gift. Jodie Prenger adds the perfect timing to his brilliant Liverpool wit one-liners. There are two basic sets: one in Shirley’s kitchen, where she talks to the wall and the audience and the other a Greek beach, the latter more dramatically lit for lyricism, romance, and the denoument.

The play deals with ever-topical themes of philosophical dilemmas about relationships, aspirations and the practicalities of reconciling the two. Sun, sea, sex and a sense of humour see Shirley through to enlightenment.

Although written in the late Eighties, the theme still rings obvious bells with women – Shirley, the mother of two grown-up children, is trapped in a marriage which has become boring, routine and almost slavery. A meeting with a former schoolmate sets her wondering what happened to her single self and her dreams.

A gifted holiday and un-scheduled events present opportunities to break the mold and rediscover who she is.

Ms Prenger presents a kaleidoscope of emotions, with an incredibly light touch.