|Written by||Willy Russell|
|Place premiered||Everyman Theatre
|Subject||A holiday in Greece refreshes an unhappy middle aged Liverpool housewife in more ways than one|
Shirley Valentine is a one-character play by Willy Russell. Taking the form of a monologue by a middle-aged, working class Liverpool housewife, it focuses on her life before and after a transforming holiday abroad.
Wondering what has happened to herself, now feeling stagnant and in a rut, Shirley Valentine finds herself regularly talking to the wall while preparing her husband's chips and egg. When her best friend wins a trip-for-two to Greece, she packs her bags, leaves a note on the cupboard door in the kitchen, and heads for a fortnight of rest and relaxation. What she finds is romance and a new awareness of who she is and what her existence can be with just a little effort on her part. She has a lot to say about everything and isn't afraid to tell the world what she thinks.
Commissioned by the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool, the play premiered in 1986, with Noreen Kershaw directed by Glen Walford. Two years later it opened in London's West End at the Vaudeville Theatre, with Pauline Collins directed by Simon Callow. After eight previews, the Broadway production, with Collins again directed by Callow, opened on 16 February 1989 at the Booth Theatre, where it ran for 324 performances. Ellen Burstyn replaced Collins later in the run. Loretta Swit starred in a US national tour in 1995.
From 26 March - 8 May 2010, as part of the Willy Russell season at the Menier Chocolate Factory, Meera Syal takes the lead role of Shirley in the production's first London West End revival. A West End transfer of the Menier Chocolate Factory production ran at the Trafalgar Studios from 20 July - 30 October 2010. Meera Syal will reprise her role as Shirley. Like the Willy Russell season at the Menier Chocolate Factory, the production will run in Repertory alongside Educating Rita starring Laura Dos Santon as Rita and Tim Pigott-Smith as Frank.
Long Wharf Theater in New Haven CT produced the play in a one-woman tour de force starring Judith Ivey from December 2, 2010-January 2, 2011. Gordon Edelstein directed.
Awards and nominations
- 1988 Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Comedy
- 1988 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actress
- 1989 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Play
- 1989 Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Actress
- 1989 Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play
- 1989 Theatre World Award for Outstanding Broadway Debut
- 1989 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding New Play
- 1989 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Director of a Play
- 1989 Tony Award for Best Play
- Russell, Willy, Shirley Valentine and One for the Road. Portsmouth, NH: Methuen 1988. ISBN 0-413-18950-3
- Klein, Alvin (24 April 1994). "THEATER; One Woman's Fling In 'Shirley Valentine'". The New York Times.
- James, Caryn (30 August 1989). "Shirley Valentine (1989) Review/Film; Shirley Valentine Talks With Others". The New York Times.