Shirley Valentine: extraordinary one woman show

MORRISBURG – A few years ago, Chris Gantry wrote a song that includes the lines, “Ah, such are the dreams of the everyday housewife/…an everyday housewife who gave up the good life …for me…”

Shirley Valentine, around whom Willie Russell’s classic comedy, ‘Shirley Valentine’, is built, is a woman who has done just that – given up on her hopes and dreams to become an ‘everyday housewife’ – apparently defined only as Joe’s mate or Milandra and Brian’s mother. A forty something ordinary British housewife, always in her kitchen, out doing mundane errands, or dutifully catering to Joe and the kids, she finally turns to the audience and says, “There was a time when Shirley Valentine knew what happiness was…”

As the show progresses, we get to know Shirley, to understand her, to share her hopes and dreams, and, ultimately, perhaps, in some ways, to love her. When she forlornly talks to ‘Wall’ and to ‘Rock’ (who might deserve billing in this production as extras!), we learn about a Shirley who laments that she has lived “such a little life.” Yet the joy of this play lies in seeing our Shirley finally take a chance, finally leap off that roof, finally plunge into the sun, sea and wine of life. It is a delightful journey.

‘Shirley Valentine’ is a very funny, very frank, and highly entertaining show, directed by James Barrett, with technical direction by Sean Free. Full of anecdotes (including the howlingly hilarious tale of “Our Brian as Joseph in the school Nativity Play”), word portraits of people she knows (the insufferable Head Mistress who wrote “I am very confident that Miss Valentine will never go anywhere.”), and even a sense of husband Joe (For a while they used to laugh together, but now he wants routine, to stay at home, to do only what is conventional.“He doesn’t drink wine. Says it’s just a posh way of getting pissed.”), this is a play to keep the audience engaged, fascinated and involved.

Shirley is suddenly, out of the blue, given the chance to go on an all expenses paid trip to Greece – to sit in the sun, to swim in the surf, to drink cocktails in a cabana. In short, to finally leave the conventional kitchen and all her other roles behind. What will happen if, in spite of all her anxieties, this frustrated woman, who spends lonely time “talking to the Wall,” dares to grab hold of life and seize this particular dream? In this play, the audience truly cares what decision she will make.

Sarah Quick, who stars as the wonderful Shirley Valentine, is herself a native of Manchester, England. A prolific playwright (she is the author of a previous Playhouse hit, ‘Knickers’) she is also co-founder and artistic director of Globus Theatre in Bobcaygen, now celebrating its 20th season. Sarah has performed in more than 40 productions, winning critical and fan praise. She succeeds magnificently in bringing Shirley to glorious life in this Upper Canada Playhouse show.

James Barrett, who directed ‘Shirley Valentine’, has an equally impressive theatrical background, as an actor and director, and is the co-founder, with Sarah, of the Globus Theatre. He served with the Ontario Summer Theatre Association, and has worked with many Arts and Culture Committees.

‘Shirley Valentine’, an amazing, touching, funny production runs at Upper Canada Playhouse until October 1. Don’t miss Sarah Quick in this defining role: “I’m Shirley Valentine again! And I like it!”

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