THEATRE: Shirley Valentine delights audience in the Esk Valley

A professional theatre company located in the midst of the glorious North York Moors National Park is presenting one of the UK’s best-loved comedies this month.
Shirley Valentine in Greece - Pic Tony BartholomewShirley Valentine in Greece - Pic Tony Bartholomew
Shirley Valentine in Greece - Pic Tony Bartholomew

Willy Russell’s one-woman show Shirley Valentine is currently running at The Esk Valley Theatre in Glaisdale and can be seen until August 28.

The play has won numerous awards, including two Oliviers and a Tony, while the film version starring Pauline Collins and Tom Conti was both Olivier- and BAFTA-nominated.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Community reporter Louise Perrin attended a performance to see how it compared to the screen version.

Panning her escape - Pic Tony BartholomewPanning her escape - Pic Tony Bartholomew
Panning her escape - Pic Tony Bartholomew

From the moment you arrive at the Esk Valley Theatre in the picturesque village of Glaisdale you get the sense that you are about to experience something special.

A crowd of people throng the outside of the venue, embracing the opportunity to put on their glad rags and mix with others in a way they haven’t for 18 months.

A host of willing volunteers, immaculately dressed and with welcoming smiles, greet the audience and serve an array of alcoholic drinks, snacks and ice creams.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Entering the theatre, your attention is instantly captured by the set, an old fashioned kitchen with busy brown wallpaper, which reminded me of my grandmother’s house in the 1980s.

Sharing her experience - Pic Tony BartholomewSharing her experience - Pic Tony Bartholomew
Sharing her experience - Pic Tony Bartholomew

The audience enter, and as the lights dim, an expectant hush fills the room, before the empty stage is completely filled by the presence of Shirley Valentine, expertly played by Ashley Hope Allan, who recently appeared in Coronation Street as the TV medium Crystal Webber.

The story is a simple one. Middle-aged Shirley Valentine, a bored housewife from Liverpool, takes a holiday to Greece with a friend who promptly abandons her for a holiday romance. Left alone, she meets the charming taverna owner, Costas.

From the moment she enters the stage, Ashley Hope Allan commands the crowd’s attention.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Addressing the audience directly, an instant rapport is built between those watching and the character, and as Shirley Valentine opens her heart, you warm to her and engage with her journey.

Talking to the wall - Pic Tony BartholomewTalking to the wall - Pic Tony Bartholomew
Talking to the wall - Pic Tony Bartholomew

Clever direction by Mark Stratton uses light and sound to focus the audience’s attention on key elements of the play, while a conspiratorial tone from Ashley Hope Allan makes you feel as though you are party to a secret that not even her family is aware of.

And that, in a nutshell, is why Shirley Valentine is so successful, you become the middle-aged house wife’s confidant, and you want to know more of her secrets.

Ashley Hope Allan in the title role offers a jaw-dropping performance as the Liverpudlian housewife, expertly imitating the other characters she describes (she makes a particularly good six-year-old Joseph in the school nativity play) and completely captivating the audience as she describes her encounter with Costas.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Director Mark Stratton said: “Shirley Valentine is the third Willy Russell play we’ve produced at the Esk Valley Theatre; it’s always a joy to direct his work. He has an economy of style and precision in his writing that always hits home and his ability to capture the wit and humour of Liverpudlians is second to none”.

The Esk Valley Theatre is located in the historic Robinson Institute in Glaisdale, eight miles west of Whitby.

Shirley Valentine can be seen at 7.30pm Mondays to Saturdays until August 28, with 2.30pm matinees on August 14, 17, 19, 24 and 26.

Tickets are available from the box office on 01947 897587 or via the website:

Related topics: