As I took my seat in The Marlborough Theatre and was greeted with Queen’s ‘I Want to Break Free’ I knew I was in for a good time. However, I could not have predicted just how pleasurable a time. Though cross-dressing men were not part of the aesthetic, viewing Ruth Redman’s performance of Willy Russell’s Shirley Valentine was entertainment enough.

After the initial music ceased the one-woman show began with Shirley explaining how relentlessly humdrum her life has become to the only willing participant available – the kitchen wall! However, hope is offered from new-found feminist Jane who invites Shirley on a holiday to Greece.

With humorous one-liners aplenty, Redman strips back the character of Shirley Bradshaw to her true essence, her bare bones if you like, which seems appropriate as she greets her husband at the end of the production as though they were about to embark on their first date by introducing herself with her maiden name of ‘Valentine’. In doing so, Shirley Valentine reminds us that while life can become dull and routine at times, with the female protagonist’s assertion that ‘Many of us die before we are dead’, there is still time to try something new like Shirley did and go see this performance from the Threadbare Theatre Company.

Olly Lugg

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