Shirley Valentine

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Friday 5 May 2017, 8pm in Frankston Arts Centre main theatre
130 min duration including 20 min interval

What makes for a satisfying life? This is one of the most sought-after questions of the human journey. It is a question that the HIT Productions play Shirley Valentine explores.

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Shirley Valentine tells the story of a woman who, disillusioned by her “unused life”, takes a holiday to Greece to discover the person she wants to be. Highly acclaimed, British-born actress and singer Mandi Lodge stars as Shirley Valentine in this funny and thought-provoking one-woman show. The play was written by Willy Russell in 1986 and made into film in 1989, thematically drawing upon the bittersweet realities of marriage and the human desire to find a place to express the essential self.

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The character of Shirley is portrayed as a suburban wife to a husband who wants “everything to be as it’s always been” and a mother to adult children who take her for granted. After a brief but moving encounter with an old school friend, it dawns on Shirley that her life has made her into a shadow of her former self. This is not necessarily because she is a wife and mother but because of the belittling ways that she has been treated and the restrictions that this has placed upon her personal development. Shirley has devoted her whole life to caring for her family’s needs, only to be taken for granted and treated as though her efforts are insubstantial, as if her life has amounted to nothing.

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When her friend offers her a trip to Greece, Shirley leaves her family life behind for two weeks despite the protests of her husband and daughter who think it is “not right”. Shirley goes anyway, knowing that the trip will free her from the “terrible weight” of her “unused life”. Reflecting on the hopes and dreams she had a young woman, Shirley breaks out of her cocoon and the expectations of her family and community when she is swept off her feet by Costa, a seaside barman. As Shirley discovers, “When you’re with someone who likes you, it makes you feel alive.” She later admits that she has “fallen in love with the idea of living”. Greece gives Shirley an open space to reflect on what is inside herself, who she wants to be, and what is important to her – to enjoy the pleasures of realising her deepest desires.

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Shirley Valentine is touching, bittersweet and funny. Mandi Lodge’s brilliant performance as Shirley keeps the energy going and the laughs coming for the full two hour duration of the show. Lodge cleverly weaves elements of conversation into the solo delivery of her story to give the impression that a range of different characters are part of the play. She does this by using different voices to introduce new characters and uses an interesting variety of vocal inflections. Time flies as warm, inclusive physical gestures and fluent monologue draws the audience into the story she is telling. Lodge’s friendly, familiar and upbeat tone makes her funny anecdotes and jokes seem effortless, allowing the audience to make light of the questions that are embedded deeply within us all – How did I get here? Am I living a fulfilled life? What is important to me?

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Like a person who goes on retreat seeking inner reflection, so too Mandi Lodge in Shirley Valentine takes the audience on a journey within themselves and out again – all with a touch of sexuality, abandon and plenty of fun!

Shirley Valentine is currently touring Australia. See HIT Productions Facebook page for more information.

Copyright © 2017 Jade Barker