Last night (26 August 2010) Whatsonstage.com theatregoers braved the rain to see Meera Syal reprise her critically acclaimed performance in the Menier Chocolate Factory's revival of Shirley Valentine as part of the Willy Russell Season, which also includes Jeremy Sams’ revival of Russell’s Educating Rita.

Meet Shirley: a middle-aged Liverpudlian housewife who talks to the wall whilst preparing her husband’s egg and chips. She’s in a rut. What has happened to her life? When her best friend Jane pays for a holiday for two to Greece, she packs her bags, heads for the sun and starts to see the world and herself rather differently...

Commissioned by the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool, Willy Russell's Shirley Valentine premiered in 1986 directed by Glen Walford. In 1988, under the direction of Simon Callow, it opened in the West End, winning the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Comedy, and starring Pauline Collins, who went on to play Shirley on Broadway (winning a Tony Award) and in the 1988 film (winning a BAFTA Award and Oscar nomination).

Following last night's performance - which Syal called  “one of those nights” after several prop mishaps, including a broken wine glass - Syal and Walford joined Whatsonstage.com editorial director Terri Paddock for an audience Q&A which offered many insights into this amusing but difficult piece.

Walford rewound to the very beginning of Shirley Valentine, when she commissioned Russell to write a new piece, expecting a big Blood Brothers-style musical, and recalled the playwright’s own Best Supporting Actress award when he had to step in for the indisposed star in Liverpool. Syal shared her imagery tricks for remembering lines and explained why Jane became a Brummie in her interpretation.

To listen to the full recording of the Q&A, click the 'play' button below; or to subscribe and download from iTunes, click here.



For more photos and commentary from last night’s event, visit our Outings blog and for further information and booking for upcoming Whatsonstage.com Outings, click here.