Review of Shirley Valentine starring Jodie Prenger at the Assembly Hall Theatre Tunbridge Wells 

July 2, 2017

There’s a real buzz around this one woman show which is currently touring the UK and stars Jodie Prenger – the winner of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s TV show I’d do anything. Many of us are familiar with the film about a bored, middle-aged mother and wife who decides to escape the mundanity of her life by running away to Greece and the stage show is every bit as good as the film. 

Last night a friend and I enjoyed a wonderful evening of heart warming comedy at the opening night of Shirley Valentine at the Assembley Hall Theatre in Tunbridge Wells. Jodie Prenger captivated the audience from the moment the curtain went up, holding our attention for the next two hours. Jodie is likeable, down to Earth and an absolute natural at storytelling.   As Shirley she wins us over with her portrayal of a bored housewife whizzing about the kitchen cooking tea of chips and egg for her husband, Joe. The retro set transports us back to the 80’s with attention to detail that will spark nostalgia with even the younger members of the audience (think old skool Fairy Liquid and deep fat fryers). 

As a working Mum I could easily relate to several aspects of the play first hand….I’m not saying my life is anything I’d ever want to flee but I am sure, even in this era of feminism and equality, we all feel a bit like Shirley at times! The playwright, Willy Russell skilfully tunes into those aspirations and secret dreams we all harbour, and it is this that captivates us as an audience.

Shirley has the audience laughing out loud on a number of occasions as we follow her struggle to accept the mundanity of her life as she reflects on her past, former aspirations and frustrations as a middle aged house wife. It’s a wonderful, thought provoking play that is so much more than just a comedy. I for one, walked out of the theatre not only beaming from laughing so much…but vowing that I will embrace life like Shirley! 

“I was no longer Shirley the neighbour, Shirley the middle-aged mother, Shirley Bradshaw. I had become Shirley the sensational, Shirley the brave, Shirley Valentine.”

Shirley Valentine is the perfect reason for a girl’s night out and a giggle over a Sauvignon Blanc (the posh stuff that Shirley drinks!) So grab your girlfriends and catch a show….I guarantee you’ll be made up!  

Jodie Prenger is performing as Shirley Valentine at the Assembly Hall Theatre from Tuesday 4th – Saturday 8th July. 

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