REVIEW: Jodie Prenger in Shirley Valentine, Grand Theatre, Blackpool

Jodie Prenger in Shirley Valentine
Jodie Prenger in Shirley Valentine
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Shirley Valentine is the story of a woman who’s become desperate to be almost anywhere but home and grasps a chance for freedom with both hands.

But as Jodie Prenger took to the Grand Theatre stage, it was clear there’s no place like home for the Blackpool star, who came to fame nine years age winning the reality TV show I’d Do Anything.

As her character bathed in the Greek sunshine, Jodie soaked up equally warm rays of appreciation as she took the audience along on her adventure - from trapped Scouse housewife cooking chips and egg for her husband, to a free spirit making sure there’s not too much life left unused.

It might be a one-woman play, but there’s character aplenty throughout. Jodie creates vivid images of those around Shirley, making the most of her comedic skills, sharing tales about hubby Joe, their grown-up kids, friends and neighbours.

Willy Russell’s witty monologue allows Jodie free reign to play with her audience. Whether breaking the fourth wall to chat directly to the audience, or firmly ensconsed within the walls of Shirley’s kitchen, she’s a physical and emotional force to reckoned with.

Jodie’s natural Blackpool charm and northern warmth nestle perfectly with Russell’s sparkling script. In the blink of an eye or a turn of the head, Jodie has the audience laughing out loud or held to a pin-drop silence - and back again just as quickly.

While Jodie’s best known as a musical theatre actress, this performance marks out her credentials as a serious acting talent.

Although this tour marks the play’s 30th anniversary, the central themes of loneliness set against a desire for something more from life are all to familiar today.

Whether you’re middle aged and all to aware of how Shirley is feeling, or looking upon her as a younger spectator, it’s all to easy to recognise the struggles she faces.

Come the closing moments, there’s quiet tears being shed by many in the audience, and it’s clear both Shirley and Jodie have touched plenty of hearts.

* Shirley Valentine, Grand Theatre, until Saturday. Call 01253 290190.