It dates back to 1986 but Willy Russell’s portrait of a lonely woman’s self-directed revolution seems to have lost none of its evergreen appeal.
Sydney’s critics are universal in their praise for this Mark Kilmurry-directed production starring Sharon Millerchip.
“Even though the play is no longer the breath of fresh air that some remember, Mark Kilmurry’s direction ensures that its ageless pertinence is kept pronounced and pervasive,” writes Suzy Wrong in her appraisal of the production.
“Full of charm and airy wit, it is an engaging show from start to end, with actor Sharon Millerchip’s charisma proving irresistible, tenaciously so, as we observe her transformations, from strength to strength. Millerchip invites us, with exacting resolve, to root for her character, and we feel as though we take the journey together, with her as captain and us the motor that propels her forward. Shirley’s successes need to be witnessed, and we are there, happily, for her.”
John Shand, writing for the Sydney Morning Herald says “Millerchip is not playing Shirley Valentine, she’s living her … To Russell’s text Millerchip adds a layer of vivacity that is all her own. She also lets Shirley ache without making her sentimental, and her Liverpudlian accent never flinches.”
Russell’s play “now feels a touch too blunt,” writes Ben Neutze in a somewhat less effusive, 3-star review for Time Out, noting that the play was written with audiences who mightn’t be regular theatregoers in mind. “I imagine if Russell were writing this play today he might put a little more trust in his audience to draw their own inferences about this extraordinary character.
“Millerchip resisted Kilmurry’s invitations to play the role for five years, believing it wasn’t a perfect fit for her. Although it’s a generally successful performance, she wasn’t wrong.”
Lynne Lancaster on the other hand, had a great night. ‘The play feels as fresh as if it was hot off the press,” she writes for ArtsHub. “Throughout the night the play had the audience rocking with laughter, and at other times listening in intense, moving silence … A wonderful revival of this inspiring feminist play that celebrates being true to yourself.”