Willy Russell’s heart-warming comedy Shirley Valentine, the tale of the Liverpool housewife who heads for Greece in search of adventure, premiered in 1986 and took the world by storm.
Celebrating its 30th Anniversary last year, the first major revival of this national treasure is touring the UK and lands at Norwich Theatre Royal from September 5-9.
It stars much loved West End leading lady Jodie Prenger as Shirley, the gutsy middle-aged woman whose kids have left home and as she makes chips and egg for her husband while talking to the wall, she asks herself where her life has disappeared to? Out of the blue, her best friend offers her a trip to Greece for two weeks and she secretly packs her bags to head for the sun where she starts to see the world and herself very differently.
With a career spanning over four decades, Willy Russell is undeniably one of the most successful playwrights of his generation. His plays, including Educating Rita, Blood Brothers, Our Day Out and Shirley Valentine, have been performed across the globe, winning countless awards and continuing to be in constant production. Shirley Valentine was also adapted into an Oscar-nominated film starring Pauline Collins and Tom Conti.
Of the revival, Willy Russell said: “It’s now thirty years since Shirley Valentine first walked onto the page, into my life and the lives of so many others. Shirley cooked her first meal of egg and chips on the stage of the Everyman Theatre Liverpool, before then hoofing it down to London where along with the cooking and talking to the wall she started picking up the string of awards she’d win in the West End, on Broadway and in the film that earned both BAFTAs and Academy Award Nominations.
“Since those early days Shirley has had an incredibly rich and varied life, appearing in many tongues across the globe in countless productions and being performed by many great actresses. The one thing Shirley Valentine has not done of late is extensively tour the UK. There have been approaches and plans mooted but, somehow, it’s just never quite felt right and so I’ve resisted such efforts – until now!”
He changed his mind though when producer Adam Spiegel introduced him to Jodie Prenger. “I knew in an instant that here was a formidable actress, one who possessed the grit and the warmth, the drive and the vulnerability, the energy and the heart to make Shirley Valentine really live again. How could any playwright resist that or deny the whole of the UK the chance to see Jodie bring Shirley to life?”
Jodie Prenger first came to public notice when she won the role of Nancy in the West End production of Oliver! through the BBC television series I’d Do Anything. Most recently she toured the UK in the classic musical Tell Me On A Sunday. She also played the title role in the national tour of the musical Calamity Jane and has starred in One Man, Two Guvnors both in the West End and on tour and as Lady of the Lake in Spamalot. Jodie is also a regular presenter on BBC Radio 2
Glen Walford, who directed the original production, is also directing this major revival and it is produced by Adam Spiegel Productions (Motown, The Last Tango, The Producers, Dance ‘Til Dawn, Midnight Tango, Love Me Tender, The Mousetrap on Tour).
Judy Foster, of Norwich Theatre Royal, said: “There is a little bit of Shirley Valentine in all of us, as who doesn’t dream of leaving it all behind to head for a Greek island? Combining such a well-loved story by a wonderful writer like Willy Russell with a fantastic actress like Jodie Prenger is guaranteed to produce a fun evening with some real laugh-out-loud moments. Tickets for the show are selling really well, so don’t hesitate too long before booking.”