Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre has done Victorians a great service by bringing Nicola Cavendish back to town as the star of Shirley Valentine, and on opening night at the McPherson Playhouse, she shone brightly.
Cavendish brings heart and humour to the life-affirming play by Willy Russell. Shirley Valentine offers incredible insight into the life of a 52-year-old English housewife who feels so alone, she only has the walls of her kitchen to talk to.
Neither her two children, her friends nor her husband care about how she’s feeling — as long as tea is on the table on time. She’s desperate for a day in which there’s just a taste of adventure, a day in which she doesn’t already know the outcome before she gets out of bed in the morning.
Then one day she finally plucks up the courage to reawaken her soul and takes the audience on the trip of a lifetime, full of laughs, new friends, and old memories that ends with a fresh outlook on life.
The set, designed specifically for this tour by Anna Sequin Poirier, brings us right into Shirley’s world — the kitchen — complete with a working cooker and rain that pounds against the window. The aroma of chips frying in hot oil wafted through the theatre’s expanse making mouths water and tummies grumble.
Act 2 takes the audience to the shores of Greece, where Valentine lives out her dream and comes to terms with her reality, all while delivering non-stop laughs.
Cavendish embodies the characters in her life, her children, her husband, her friend with such detail — a twitch, a raised eyebrow, a gesture — that clearly separates them from Valentine so the audience has no trouble at all with the transitions.
Like a fine Greek wine enjoyed at the edge of the sea, Cavendish’s performance has matured over 22 years (her performance of this piece has earned her Best Actress accolades in both Vancouver’s prestigious Jessie Richardson and Toronto’s Dora Mavor Moore Awards) and more than 600 performances into a tour de force that is an absolute delight to behold.
If this play doesn’t make you want to live the life of your dreams, you’re already dead. Isn’t that right, Wall?
Directed by Roy Surrette
Sets by Anna Sequin Poirier
Costumes by Phillip Clarkson
Lighting by Harry Frehner
Sound by Peter Cerone and
Stage Managing by Rick Rinder
Shirley Valentine runs at the McPherson Playhouse until May 20
What few tickets left are available at rmts.bc.ca. M