Review: Jodie Prenger excels as Shirley Valentine

Jodie Prenger in Shirley Valentine. Photo by Manuel Harlan.
Jodie Prenger in Shirley Valentine. Photo by Manuel Harlan.

Holiday romance on a sun-kissed Greek island or back home to a grumpy hubby in damp Britain? No contest!

How many women watching this week’s play at Chesterfield’s Pomegranate Theatre wish they could do a Shirley Valentine and swap a life of domestic drudgery for an adventure in paradise with a handsome stranger?

Willy Russell’s classic comedy of female empowerment is vividly brought to life by Jodie Prenger in this mesmerising production.

Unlike the film version of Shirley Valentine, which starred Pauline Colins, Jodie plays every character under the sun, each with well-constructed personalities and a multitude of voices. They range from Shirley’s son and daughter, Shirley’s school nemesis turned high class hooker and even Costas the philandering waiter who sweeps Shirley off on his boat and into his clutches.

It’s very much a show of two halves; the first act is set in Shirley’s fitted kitchen where she reflects on life as she works her way trough a bottle of wine and rustles up chips and egg for her hubby Joe. The kitchen wall becomes her sounding board, while the cooker and fridge are the inanimate targets for Joe’s fury when the steak is missing from his Thursday tea.

After one outburst too many, Shirley packs her bags and takes up her friend’s offer of a fortnight’s holiday but the plane hasn’t even landed in Greece before her pal has copped off.

The second act opens with Shirley on her own again, only this time with a rock as her confidante and a backdrop of sapphire blue sea rather than yellow walls. Free of domestic shackles, this 42-year-old wife and mother blooms into a confident woman determined to get the most out of life.

This is a tour de force for Jodie whose engaging performance warms the hearts of the audience. Some of her Livepudlian pronunciations were hard to dcipher so I missed a couple of punchlines - but that didn’t spoil a first-rate show.

Shirley Valentine is at the Pomegranate Theatre until Saturday,September 30.

GAY BOLTON