Venue: Royal Court Theatre

Where: Liverpool

With a plethora of awards already under its belt, Willy Russell’s Shirley Valentine is something of a theatrical institution and yet, with this outing, if possible, Liverpool comedienne Pauline Daniels has taken the Mum who wants away from her hum-drum existence to new heights that others might only dream of.

Not only does Daniels portray Shirley Bradshaw nee Valentine, she moves beneath her skin and inhabits her in way that is uncannily natural and so brings an extra dimension to a character so familiar it might have been easy to have slipped into making her something of a cliché, thanks to the star’s exceptional timing and stage presence.

Glen Walford, the play’s original director, has once again aided brilliantly in bringing further sparkle to the piece, so that all is lain out before the audience in a manner that guarantees the fact that audiences will both laugh and cry, as Russell’s exemplary words tumble forth.

With a set, in the first act, that sees Shirley’s kitchen blend in with the street outside before changing, in the second act into the sun-kissed beaches of Greece, simplicity and understatement are clearly the key and it works magnificently, so that Pauline Daniels is left to do what she does best, entertain.

If you’ve never seen Shirley Valentine before or whether you’re contemplating seeing it for the thousandth time, this outstanding production is one that delivers and can safely ensure that everything its legend says is absolutely true.

- Chris High

* Picture taken by Dave Evans