Shirley Valentine on stage
Final show of the season
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.1000islandsplayhouse.com or contact the box office at 613-3827020.
Deborah Drakeford as Shirley Valentine, in a photo from rehearsal.