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Shirley Valentine


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A: Willy Russell Pf: 1986, Liverpool Pb: 1988 G: Monodrama in 2 acts S: Kitchen of Shirley's house, Liverpool, and Greek seaside village, 1980s C: 1fShirley Bradshaw, née Valentine, is a lonely 42-year-old housewife, whose son and daughter have left home, and who lives in a loveless marriage with her husband Joe. While she prepares an evening meal of egg and chips (although Joe is expecting mince), she converses with the wall of her kitchen. Her best friend Jane, a feminist divorcee, has bought her a ticket to join her for two weeks' holiday in Greece, but she knows that Joe will not allow her to go. Three weeks later, Shirley is about to leave for Greece. She has resolved to go without telling him, after Joe threw the egg and chips all over her. Five weeks later, in Greece, Shirley now chats with a rock. Jane had already met a man on the plane, and Shirley has to suffer the ordeal of being alone with unbearable English tourists in her hotel. Escaping from her fellow countrymen, she meets a local taverna owner, Costas, and they become lovers. At the airport, she wonders why ‘there is all this unused life?’, and suddenly decides she is never going home. She returns to Costas, who is embarrassed to be caught seducing another tourist. But Shirley merely asks to work in his taverna, where she cooks egg and chips for nervous tourists. Joe is coming out to fetch her, but she knows he will no longer recognize her, because she is ‘Shirley Valentine again’.

A: Willy Russell Pf: 1986, Liverpool Pb: 1988 G: Monodrama in 2 acts S: Kitchen of Shirley's house, Liverpool, and Greek seaside village, 1980s C: 1f

As in Educating Rita, Russell is aware of the missed potential in most people's lives, and shows one woman who is prepared to ‘find some life’. Made into a popular film in 1989, it is an impossibly optimistic piece (how will Shirley survive in the winter?), but Shirley's Liverpudlian wit and common sense deflect such concerns.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Willy Russell (b. 1947)


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