Shirley Valen­tine on stage

Fi­nal show of the sea­son

The Gananoque Reporter - - FRONT PAGE - LOR­RAINE PAYETTE

A mid-life cri­sis doesn’t al­ways man­i­fest it­self in hot blon­des, cold cham­pagne, and tricked out Lam­borgh­i­nis burn­ing up the strip. Some­times it’s dif­fer­ent. Some­times it is a need to get away from the rou­tine of those four walls, a spouse who barely knows you’re there, to not have to pre­pare an­other plate of egg and chips or do count­less more loads of mind-numb­ing laun­dry as you talk to the walls and re­mem­ber that once you, too, had a life and a prom­ise and a hope.

Wel­come to the world of Shirley Valen­tine, a Liver­pudlian housewife who wist­fully re­mem­bers when and des­per­ately needs a change. On that won­der­ful day when her best friend of­fers to pay for a trip for two to Greece, she packs her bags, leaves a note on the kitchen cup­board and takes off for a de­li­cious two weeks of rest, re­cre­ation and con­tem­pla­tion.

“This is a byprod­uct of Ash­ley Cor­co­ran, the last artis­tic direc­tor, who gave me the op­por­tu­nity to di­rect here,” An­drew Kush­nir, direc­tor of “Shirley Valen­tine” at the Thou­sand Is­lands Play­house, said. “I ap­proached her with ‘Shirley Valen­tine’ as a script — it was a play that I saw in the mid-2000s in Toronto and it left a real im­print on me. It’s a script from 1986, and you would think that it might have aged a lit­tle bit, but the vi­tal­ity of Shirley’s voice in this play, along with the ex­is­ten­tial cri­sis that she un­der­goes with the au­di­ence, re­ally res­onates even now. I was pro­foundly moved when I reread the script. It’s deal­ing with big hu­man ques­tions that don’t just go away with time.”

Shirley is deal­ing with stresses and sit­u­a­tions in her life that could be iden­ti­fi­able to any­one. Al­most ev­ery per­son will be able to say they truly un­der­stand her sit­u­a­tion and will be cheer­ing her on.

“The play is largely about women and the scripts they re­ceive in life — what do you need to fol­low as a nar­ra­tive as awoman in­many parts of the world,” Kush­nir said. “Shirley is go­ing, ‘I don’t know about this script any­more, I don’t know about this nar­ra­tive, I think I want some­thing dif­fer­ent.”

And dif­fer­ent is not only what she is of­fered, but what she takes gladly into her heart.

The role of Shirley is played bril­liantly by Deb­o­rah Drake­ford. Known to Play­house au­di­ences for her per­for­mances in “Wait­ing for the Pa­rade” and “The Im­por­tance of Be­ing Earnest,” she takes com­mand of the role and puts her en­tire self into bring­ing Shirley fully to life on the stage.

“I never wanted to do a oneper­son show,” Drake­ford said. “It was never on my radar. But when I au­di­tioned for An­drew, I re­ally liked him, I liked the way he saw the piece, and hav­ing read the play again I re­al­ized I love this woman so­much. There is so­much I un­der­stand about her and the com­plex­i­ties of her and the search­ing for an­swers. Shirley is a mid­dle-aged, lonely, work­ing class mother of two liv­ing in Liver­pool who is of­fered an op­por­tu­nity by a friend, and that of­fer sends her into a world of ques­tion­ing her life and ev­ery­thing she’s known up to this point. She grap­ples with the an­swers, and while some of them are happy and some not, they help her to un­der­stand who and where she is. This won­der­fully funny, charm­ing lit­tle woman be­comes a voice for so many peo­ple — not just women, but men as well.”

Pre­mier­ing in Liver­pool in 1986, it opened in Lon­don’s West End just two years later. Hav­ing won both the Lau­rence Olivier Awards for Best Ac­tress and Best New com­edy, it came to Broadway in 1989 and re­ceived a Tony Award for Best Ac­tress along with the nom­i­na­tion for Best Play. Play­wright Willy Rus­sell adapted the script for film in 1989 and it won the BAFTA Award for Best Ac­tress as well as re­ceiv­ing two Academy Award nom­i­na­tions and three nom­i­na­tions for the Golden Globes. The play has been pro­duced world­wide, and re­cently did a U.K. na­tional tour in cel­e­bra­tion of its 30th an­niver­sary.

“Shirley Valen­tine” runs un­til Oct. 15 at the Springer Theatre, 185 South St., Gananoque. Run­ning time for the play is about two hours, in­clud­ing in­ter­mis­sion. The play is highly rec­om­mended for au­di­ences of all ages. Show times are Tues­day through Thurs­day, 7:30 p.m.; Fri­day and Sat­ur­day, 8 p.m.; with mati­nees on Wed­nes­day, Sat­ur­day and Sun­day at 2 p.m. Tick­ets are $19-$35 with dis­counts avail­able for se­niors and youth. HST is ap­pli­ca­ble to all ticket prices. For more in­for­ma­tion, go on­line to www.1000is­land­splay­ or con­tact the box of­fice at 613-3827020.


Deb­o­rah Drake­ford as Shirley Valen­tine, in a photo from re­hearsal.

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