The Greville Theatre Club

Shirley Valentine

by Willy Russell

Oct/Nov 2003

Directed by
Jan Ford



Review: Sinead Holland

My heart sank as I made my way to Little Easton's Barn Theatre to see Shirley Valentine, the latest production by the Greville Theatre Club.

The company has a proven pedigree of amateur excellence and has staged a diverse range of plays from costume dramas to whodunnits with dazzling success, but I felt sure that this time director Jan Ford and her team had bitten off more than they could chew.

Thankfully, I couldn't have been more wrong. My misgivings about the group tackling what is essentially a monologue lasting more than two hours were dispelled utterly as soon as the curtain rose and Carol Parradine took the title role and made it her own. Despite the sparkling script by Willy Russell, the part is a test for even the most accomplished professional actress. Our middle-aged heroine is required to talk to the wall or a rock - in the wrong hands this device could be awkward, stilted or even mawkish. The potential for unintentional humour in what should be a touching comedy is obvious and the play can only succeed if the audience believes it is in the kitchen with Shirley, listening to her intimate thoughts, eavesdropping on her dreams and mourning her regrets.

Carol Parradine and the Greville Theatre Club achieved all this and more - all of us watching were transfixed as she prepared egg and chips, packed her case and finally sat beneath a parasol, exposed in shorts and a bikini top, and told us of how she rediscovered the art of living. There were no fancy sets or special effects to divert attention from any shortcomings, although the simple props were, as ever, of the highest quality and utterly convincing.

There was no hiding place for Ms Parradine and she triumphed. The double encore was well deserved and also a fitting tribute to Ms Ford's accomplished direction. The backstage team, including David and Jan Faithfull, Daphne Heywood, Adrian Hoodless, Diana Bradley, Pam Kaye, Pam Perry, Richard Pickford, Mike Longman, Steve Bradley, Jan Mitchell, June Roper and Barbara Rivett were steadfast in their work.

I have no idea what the Greville's next challenge will be. Frankly, I don't need to know. Book now! It will be wonderful.




Review by Pat Rudkins

ONCE again there was a convivial atmosphere on my Saturday night visit to this unique venue.

A friendly family from The Rodings shared their pre-show crisps around the table while afterwards Jan Mitchell and June Roper's efficient team were just the ticket with their hot supper which included delicious puddings. Food apart, what of the play?  I have seen Willy Russell's masterpiece several times (forget the film, he originally wrote it as a one-hander), yet never before have I laughed so much, nor been so profoundly moved.

Carol Parradine's portrayal of Shirley Valentine is outstanding - from her version of The F-Plan to her final realisation of self-worth on a Greek island, she is electrifying.  She takes the audience into her confidence from the outset with apparent ease.  To see the smiles spread on the faces of the smartly-dressed gentlemen around me as they were given permission, through the dialogue, to laugh at words previously seen but not heard was an absolute joy.

To hear the vocal responses from their female friends was equally satisfying. Parradine's timing, in a consistent Liverpudlian accent, was perfect.  This performance is not a centre-stage monologue.  There is much awesome 'business' in the first act, hence the programme credits to a local kitchen firm and there was much debate at my table about whether or not sound effects had been added!

Director Jan Ford must take credit for the pace of the production and David and Jan Faithfull and Adrian Hoodless's respective teams for setting and stage management.