REVIEW: Shirley Valentine

Octagon production at Bolton Library Theatre

IT’S a brave step to change an acknowledged classic and in transposing Willy Russell’s Shirley Valentine from Liverpool to Lancashire, the Octagon was taking a risk.

But in Mina Anwar’s more than capable hands, it is a risk which had paid off superbly.

This is a production to savour with Mina delivering a one-woman tour-de-force which rightly led to a standing ovation.

It’s no mean feat to command a stage alone for the best part of two hours but the Accrington-born actress had the audience transfixed.

As Shirley, the housewife trapped in a life of drudgery, who takes solace talking to her kitchen wall and finally rediscovers her old self on a holiday to Greece, she delivers something of a masterclass.

It’s the little details which are so effective; the double checking in the handbag for the passport, the constant cleaning of the kitchen, the brilliant characterisations of her neighbours and fellow travellers.

And on top of all that, she has to cook chips and eggs from scratch. A word of warning, don’t, as I did, go along not having had any tea - the smell was almost too good!

One of the great advantages of not having a Scouse Shirley is that you imediately stop making comparisons with any previous incarnations and can just approach the piece anew.

At its heart is some quality writing - Willy Russell has always had the knack to write for women.

Mina Anwar has taken that material and made it her own.

The Accrington Stanley mug and some nice local references are a nod to the subtle changes that have been made.

She’s in her element and the intimate surroundings of the Library Theatre are the perfect setting for this almost confessional-style piece.

Although it was premiered almost 25 years ago, Shirley Valentine remains remarkably relevant. It’s a celebration of the powerful, working class woman and with Mina at the helm there’s plenty to celebrate.

Shirley Valentine runs at the Library Theatre until Saturday, February 29. Details from