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

Mr Stink live on stage

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Friday 17th March at 6pm, Frankston Arts Centre main theatre

Those who love British comedy will probably be familiar with David Walliams, the writer of, and lead actor in the popular BBC television series, Little Britain. Less commonly known, is the array of children’s books that Walliams has written, including a book called Mr Stink (2009). Maryam Master, Australian writer of children’s productions, who has also written 80 episodes for Home and Away, adapted the book into a play that premiered at the Sydney Opera House in April last year. A team of this calibre, including award-winning Australian director, Jonathan Biggins, indicates that there is more to Mr Stink than pure children’s entertainment.

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David Walliams Promotes His Book “Mr Stink” At Bluewater Shopping Centre In Kent. (Photo by Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images)

 

Like any good comedic art, Mr Stink engages people of all ages in fun and laughter, but also raises and addresses moral challenges that our society faces today.

Twelve-year old Chloe (played by Romy Watson) faces bullying and cyberbullying by her school peers and is downtrodden by her overbearing, career-driven mother Mrs Crumb (Anna Cheney), who fails to listen to or recognise her daughter’s talents. Chloe is a wonderful story-writer with a vivid imagination and has a talent for listening and engaging compassionately with others. Instead of praising Chloe, Mrs Crumb favours her other daughter Annabelle (Amanda Laing) for going along with her wishes in engaging in an exhausting regimen of extra-curricular activities such as ballet, panpipe lessons, basketball and yoga. Even Chloe’s father (Darren Sabadina) is too scared of Mrs Crumb to admit that he has lost his job, resorting to locking himself in the cupboard under the stairs, but “only during business hours”.

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Things start to change for Chloe when she meets Mr Stink (John O’Hare), a homeless man living in a nearby park. Although Mr Stink is very stinky and behaves oddly and amusingly at times, he has an innate gift of being real, honest and a good listener. Mr Stink tears down all pretences and in doing so, creates the avenues needed for Chloe’s family to talk to one another and remember the things that are truly important.

This delightful play is hilariously brought to life by skilful actors. Anna Cheney fabulously portrays Chloe’s highly-driven mother falling apart at the seams. Darren Sabadina cleverly switches between three very different but engaging characters: Raj the shopkeeper, Mr Crumb and the Prime Minister. John O’Hare, Amanda Laing and Romy Watson create convincing characters that the audience can relate to. Skilful acting aside, Mr Stink is also thought-provoking. The play encourages the audience to consider a range of issues that contemporary children and young people are grappling with, and provides insight on how to help young people deal with those issues. Mr Stink may be at the bottom of society’s hierarchy, but his kindness, humility and ability to stand up for the justice of others, heals a family and a community.

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See FAC website for details on exciting upcoming shows for families, including Seussical, We’re Going On a Bearhunt, Diary of a Wombat, Saltbush and Horrible Harriet.

Copyright © 2017 Jade Barker