Shirley Valentine

Willy Russell’s iconic one-woman play Shirley Valentine premiered on the stage in 1986. Sheridan Smith had been born just five years earlier, in 1981. She has now reached the required age to take on the part, and we are blessed as she could have easily been born to play this role. It is a perfect match of actress and character.

Masterfully written, beautifully staged and exceptionally performed

Smith plays Shirley Valentine as if we have simultaneously just met her and know her intimately. We, the audience, are there as reliably as her kitchen wall whilst also needing to be told exactly how her friends and family fit into her life. It is a fine line to tread, though Smith accomplishes it easily.

The show opens with Shirley in her kitchen. The design by Paul Wills is simple yet elegant showing hints of rooms – and life – beyond the kitchen. His task is more complex than a lot of set designers as this room has to function for the famous cooking of egg and chips. The act two set was stunning to behold. A special mention must also go out to the costuming by Paul Wills (again) and Jessica Dixon as her outfits matched wonderfully with the sets – and lighting by Lucy Carter – to create a sumptuous image to marvel at. The entire visual spectacle had unity and integrity throughout and so credit must go to director Matthew Dunster.

It is, however, Sheridan Smith’s moment. The warmth displayed is engaging from start to finish. On the night I watched there was a very loud and well timed cackle from an audience member rather early on in the show. Smith remained in character whilst acknowledging the laugh in such the way the entire audience burst into applause and laughter simultaneously. It was an early indicator that we were in very safe hands for the next couple of hours.

It’s rare to feel that everyone around you is able to find something in the play that speaks to them, but that happened in this theatre. It is the nature of Willy Russell’s play that it has an affinity with the human psyche and the desires that we all share. By the end of the night I was moved, all those around me were moved and possibly even Smith herself was moved by the audience reaction that followed. This is one of those shows that will live long in the memory. Masterfully written, beautifully staged and exceptionally performed.

Reviews by Christopher James

@sohoplace / Soho Place

Brokeback Mountain

Duke of Yorks Theatre

Shirley Valentine

Harold Pinter Theatre



Only An Octave Apart

57-60 Haymarket


Queen Elizabeth Hall

Briefs: Bite Club


Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now



The Blurb

Shirley Valentine is the joyous, life-affirming story of the woman who got lost in marriage and motherhood, the woman who wound up talking to the kitchen wall whilst cooking her husband's chips and egg. But Shirley still has a secret dream. And in her bag, an airline ticket. One day she may just leave a note saying: 'Gone! Gone to Greece.'

Most Popular See More

The Mousetrap

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets


From £25.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Matilda the Musical

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Tina - The Tina Turner Musical

From £12.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Frozen the Musical

From £36.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Lion King

From £35.00

More Info

Find Tickets