I don’t think it is fair to write a ‘review’ of a show if I saw it on the last night of a run. The whole point of writing stuff about a show is so that people get a very clear idea of what I thought about it before they go and see it. But. We did go to The Kalk Bay Theatre last night for the final performance of Anthea Thompson in Shirley Valentine and I want to write down what I thought.
I remember seeing the movie when I was young enough that Shirley’s journey back to herself was cute and something my mother’s friends should do. The play is much much better than the movie. And now I am exactly Shirley Valentine’s age. You have no idea how weird that is. And how grateful I am that my life is nothing like her’s. This is a simple story of a woman’s journey back to self discovery, identity and independence by taking a two week holiday to Greece. The play is well constructed because we want her to go, we want her to succeed, we support her braveness as if it were us.
Anthea was excellent. Her characterisation, sensitivity, control, physicality, handling of the intimate space, timing were spot on. Her performance was funny and moving.
What was more amazing for me (and a huge lesson) was how much the completely sold-out audience loved the show. It is old-fashioned theatre, with a good story and lots of gags and one liners. There is swearing, but it’s cute. The character is self-deprecating in a comic way. I think everyone in the audience knew the story. The guy sitting almost next to me repeated the lines that he related to. He had a conversation with Shirley. But mostly, this kind of feel-good, warm, personal journey type theatre with a familiar story is exactly what people want to see. They relate to it. They know it. It is comfortable, unthreatening and entirely palatable. I repeat, it was excellently well done, and I take nothing away from that, but I think what I’m saying to the more independent, jump off the roof, original South African theatre makers out there is; remember, people want to see Shirley Valentine.