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Genre Radio comedy-drama
Running time 58 minutes
Country of origin United Kingdom
Language(s) English
Home station BBC Radio 4
Starring Tracy-Ann Oberman
Maggie Steed
Bruce Alexander
Written by Gregory Evans
Directed by Marc Beeby
No. of series 1
No. of episodes 1
Audio format Stereophonic sound
Opening theme "My Heart Belongs to Daddy"
Ending theme "My Heart Belongs to Daddy"

Shirleymander is a radio comedy-drama written by Gregory Evans.[1] It was inspired by Today journalist Andrew Hosken's book Nothing Like a Dame (2006).[2][3] Shirleymander was first broadcast as the Friday Play by BBC Radio 4 on 27 November 2009. The play's title is a portmanteau referencing the gerrymandering policy adopted by Shirley Porter while leader of Westminster City Council in the 1980s which "forced homeless families to substandard housing in order to manipulate the borough's voting demographic."[4]

Shirleymander dramatises Porter's time as leader of the council and the scandals that ensued around the illegal homes for votes policy and the sale of 3 cemeteries for 5 pence each.[5][6] Porter is depicted as "vain, arrogant, bullying and desperate to keep the borough from falling into the hands of her arch-enemies, the socialists."[7] Evans said of his play:

I haven't invented stuff, I haven't needed to. The material in Andrew's book was all carefully researched. The problem is that there is too much and so I have to leave a lot out... I know she is litigious or used to be but I am not making any new allegations in the play.[8]

Maureen Lipman and Imelda Staunton had both been linked with the lead role, which was eventually awarded to Tracy-Ann Oberman.[1][4][9] Of her portrayal of Porter, Oberman said:

When I first read the script I couldn't believe that she really did all these dreadful things. I had to be assured that the play was based on fact, not fiction. I actually tried to portray her with a human dimension, but when I spoke to people who knew her from her City Hall days they said I shouldn't bother, as they recalled she didn't have one. I then worked out that Shirley was one of those people who will always see themselves as the victims.[9]


  • Leader (Shirley Porter) - Tracy Ann Oberman
  • Wet - Maggie Steed
  • Senior Council official - Joseph Cohen-Cole
  • Executive Director - Piers Wehner
  • Deputy - Stephen Hogan
  • The Doctor - Sagar Arya
  • District Auditor - Bruce Alexander
  • QC, Father - Ewan Hooper
  • Chairman, Tesco - Philip Fox
  • Labour Councillor - John Biggins
  • Female interviewer - Tessa Nicholson


The play received positive reviews. Brian Marconi, reviewing for The Mail on Sunday, said: "Tracy-Ann Oberman gives a fiery performance as Shirley in this unexpectedly witty play."[10] The Times wrote: "Oberman has the time of her life chewing up the scenery in this frequently grotesque comedy drama...Gregory Evans has woven an atmosphere of poisonous paranoia, stocked with rabid right-wingers, sycophants and the occasional caring Conservative. Excellent fun."[7] Moira Petty, writing in The Stage, also commended Evans for his recreation of the culture of fear that had pervaded the council: "What this drama did extraordinarily well was to conjure up an atmosphere of dread, suspicion and subservience which allowed her reign of terror to flourish. The corridors of Westminster Council were littered with the neurotic, chain-smoking remnants of those officers who hadn't fled."[11]

Gillian Reynolds, for The Daily Telegraph, observed that the play "avoided front-parlour-back-room realism and went instead for a series of aural sketches (Shirley shouting, Shirley not understanding, people avoiding Shirley, people telling Shirley she was wrong, Shirley invincibly convinced she was right), which fell together into a brutally comic, unexpectedly sad composite portrait."[12] Of Oberman's performance, Reynolds wrote: "It's a thoughtful sketch of a woman in power, how she came to it, what she did with it, beautifully acted by Tracy-Ann Oberman."[13]

The Daily Mail called the play "seriously good" and said "[this] sharp [and] clever drama...swings from being a high Greek tragedy to a low political farce."[14] Paul Donovan, for The Sunday Times, called the play "taut, vicious, gripping" and felt that the character of Porter emerged "as an immensely strong, charismatic woman surrounded by jellyfish."[15]


  1. ^ a b "An everyday story of corrupt folk". London Evening Standard. London. 24 August 2009. p. 14. (The article's title is a pun around long-running radio soap opera The Archers, billed as "an everyday story of country folk."). 
  2. ^ Wavell, Stuart (30 August 2009). "Shirley's antics could bring the house down". The Sunday Times. London. p. 21. 
  3. ^ Welham, Jamie (2 October 2009). "EastEnders star gets Porter role to kill for". West End Extra. London. Retrieved 4 November 2013. 
  4. ^ a b Nathan, John (8 May 2008). "Maureen Lipman to play Dame Shirley — maybe". The Jewish Chronicle. London. Retrieved 4 November 2013. 
  5. ^ "Radio choice: Shirleymander". The Independent. London. 21 November 2009. p. 44. 
  6. ^ "Radio Choice: Shirleymander". Daily Mail. London. 27 November 2009. p. 91. 
  7. ^ a b Campling, Chris (27 November 2009). "Radio Choice". The Times. London. p. 21. 
  8. ^ "Don't cry for me Westminster: it's Shirley the play". London Evening Standard. London. 28 April 2008. p. 14. 
  9. ^ a b "From East End to West End villain". London Evening Standard. London. 30 November 2009. p. 16. 
  10. ^ Marconi, Brian (22 November 2009). "Brian Marconi picks the best of the week's radio". The Mail on Sunday. London. p. 58. 
  11. ^ Petty, Moira (30 November 2009). "Radio review". The Stage. London. Retrieved 4 November 2013. 
  12. ^ Reynolds, Gillian (30 November 2009). "A Family Affair (Radio 4)". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 4 November 2013. 
  13. ^ Reynolds, Gillian (14 October 2011). "Radio choice". The Daily Telegraph. London. p. 38. 
  14. ^ "Radio Choice". Daily Mail. London. 14 October 2011. p. 77. 
  15. ^ Donovan, Paul (22 November 2009). "Pick of the day". The Sunday Times. London. p. 75.