I was a little wary before I went to see this latest show at the Ensemble. I’ve seen a few Shirley Valentine’s over the years, and like many have seen the very popular film version. I’m pleased to say that the freshness and naturalness of Sharon Millerchip’s performance made for not only a bearable but a very pleasurable night at the theatre.

Willy Russell’s well crafted mainstream play is cleverly divided into two very distinct two halves. In the first half we see the very frustrated Shirley complaining about her boring, married life in suburbia and being under the thumb of her lacklustre, rigid husband. After interval she has at least temporarily leaving behind her dull life. She is living it in Greece, and amongst other things having a brief but exciting affair with a very accomodating Greek guy called Kostas.

Mark Kilmurry’s direction is clear and to the point. Simone Romaniuk’s set and costume design are very effective. A highlight is the large ‘wallpaper’ postcard from a Greek island  which greets audiences when they take their seats after interval.

Russell’s play is a classic story of transformation – Shirley changes from being a bored, submissive woman to a feisty, independent, authentic one. Millerchip is convincing in the role- she deftly delivers the witty dialogue, maintains her character and the British accent well through the show, and wins the audience over her charm and vivaciousness.

Highly recommended, Willy Russell’s SHIRLEY VALENTINE is playing the EnsembleTheatre [Facebook] until the 9th June.