Shirley Valentine is a romantic comedy, set in Liverpool, about a woman a called (Surprisingly) Shirley Bradshaw. She is married to a man called Joe. When Joe and Shirley were married, they loved each other passionately, but as the years went on her life became a monotonous routine of washing up plates, glasses and dishes and making meals for her husband.
She has resorted to talking to the kitchen wall because she is so bored. Shirley though, can never remember the exact point in which her lovely marriage turned into a horrible nightmare. Her marriage becomes so routine that Joe eats particular meals on particular days and if he does not get them on the write allocated days he gets very upset!
Things take an unexpected turn in Shirley’s boring life when her feminist ‘all men are potential rapists’ friend, Jane, wins two tickets for a holiday in Greece after she enters a magazine competition. Shirley is unwilling to accept Jane’s invitation to come on holiday with her. Shirley can not imagine going away on holiday on general principles and she can not see herself as being independent.
She feels guilty how Joe would cope if she went away for two weeks, leaving all the cooking and cleaning for him to do! Jane eventually convinces Shirley to accompany her on the holiday. Shirley and Jane leave in the day and they get on the plane to leave for Greece. When Joe gets in from work he finds a note attached to a Greek tourist poster pinned on the door saying ‘gone to Greece, be back in two weeks’.
The first additional scene takes place at Joe’s work.
A medium sized factory with workers in it.
Joe walks in front of a moving forklift truck with his head facing the floor and nearly gets run over by it.
Bob: Whoa. Watch out you bloody . . . Joe I haven’t seen you all day. What you been doing?
Joe: uh not much (hesitatingly).
Bob: I nearly ran over you. Anyway, forget about it; just be more careful around here. How are things anyway?
Joe is staring into space.
Joe: Yeah things are all right.
Bob you usually don’t get a fork lift truck arm smashed into your face everyday. Is something the matter?
Joe: No. No. Just get back to the work.
Bob: Yes sir. You’re the boss.
Later on Joe approaches bob
Joe: Uh . . . Bob can I see you for a second in my office?
Bob: yeah. Sure
They go up to Joe’s office.
Joe: You know I’ve been a bit . . . well you know off?
Bob: Yeah. You have. What’s up?
Well I’ve got this uh . . . mate. And his wife has gone on a holiday to Greece for a fortnight, and he is really upset and he doesn’t know what to do.
Bob: well why do you care. It’s nothing to do with you. Right?
Joe: yeah but he is really upset. The stupid woman gave him about half an hour notice. And then she left. And my mate didn’t get abusive and stuff like that because he’s not a violent person you know, he’s a good man but he had a right go at her though before she left.
Bob: Well she’ll be back soon. Won’t she? So there’s nothing to worry about is there?
Joe: No. I suppose there isn’t. Well thanks for you uh advice.
Bob: Any time. I’ll see you around
Bob walk’s out of Joe’s office.
Joe: well that was more friggin’ unpleasant than drinking a cup of cold sick. I’d be better off talking to Wall about this.
Shirley Valentine is a film about unfulfilled hopes and dreams. The film shows the archaic nature of Britain: Joe is the breadwinner and Shirley is the housewife. Shirley does not have any confidence in breaking out of her role as housewife.
She could not believe it would be possible for her to go to Greece because she thought she must accept the limitations of her role as housewife, and she did not have the confidence to break out of these limitations. The situation was not always as depressing as this. When Shirley and Joe were first married, they were both bubbly and outgoing. They enjoyed spending time together and they had a good sense of fun.
The two aspects that changed their lives were Joe’s job and their children. When they had children Joe’s job became more important to him because he had to earn more to support the children. Shirley enjoyed her marriage but when she had children she became involved with them, and he became more and more involved with his work. Joe takes his responsibilities seriously and puts a lot of effort into his business. As time has gone by the business has become more important in his life, making his marriage and his relationship with his children fade into the background.
Shirley became pre-occupied with cleaning the house and looking after the children; and Joe became pre-occupied with working hard at his job. This made Joe and Shirley grow apart. When the children left home Joe’s job remained important to him and distracted him from his family life, but Shirley was left with no responsibilities any more making her feel empty.
As time goes on Joe no longer talks about his feelings. His business is vital to him. If he does not run his business efficiently, he would lose his income, possibly his house, and be unable to support his children. Joe’s work life is very emotionless making Joe increasingly unable to express his affection towards Shirley as he gets older. He is the manager of the company (signified by the briefcase) and schedules, times and procedures are very important to him. Work has become everything to him. He has become so involved in managing his company that he uses the same techniques at home as he does at work, ‘managing’ his wife. He expects his tea to be on the table at a specific time, and he expects specific meals for each day of the week. Joe has an authority at work that exists all the time when he is there. He brings this home treating Shirley like an employee at Joe’s business. He has a very authoritarian presence at home. Shirley questions his authority at home “You’ll get your tea when it’s ready”, although it is clear that she does not usually question him. This is due to the recent conversation that she has had with Jane, which has given her confidence. At work, he is authoritative but at home he has become unreasonably authoritarian. Joe has become so unreasonable at home, that to an audience he appears funny. The audience sees Joe as a ridiculous parody of a working class man.
The success of his business also gives him status. His status at work is high. Joe’s colleagues like him, get on with him and respect him and he is happy if things are done in the way he would want them done. Joe is an important man at work; thus, he thinks he is an important man at home. He is using his work ethos at home. His work personality expects things to be done on time and at regular intervals if necessary. He is behaving at home like he would do at work. He says ‘but I always have my tea at six o’clock’ as though there has been an error in the system. Joe’s relationship with Shirley has become a no nonsense one. He is happy if he gets what he wants and if he does not gets what he wants then he is angry (hence the egg and chips incident). Joe expects her to do what he wants. Joe’s conversations with Shirley are confined to essential issues. Joe has become an emotional miser.
When Shirley unexpectedly leaves Joe at home while she goes off for a two-week holiday in Greece, Joe goes through different emotions. Firstly Joe is in a state of shock, totally mesmerised and filled with disbelief. He then gets extremely angry with Shirley. He is ashamed of what she has done. He is worried about loosing status at work. Finally he comes to the realisation near the end of the play that he misses her and still loves her. He becomes sympathetic towards her and he is upset that she decided to stay in Greece.
Joe can not tell his friend about what Shirley has done because he feels that he would be a ‘laughing stock’ if he did. If Joe tells his colleague that Shirley has gone to Greece against his authority his friend would think that he was weak. This would embarrass Joe. He would start to lose status and respect at work if he told him.
Joe can also not tell his friend that it is him he is talking about. He disguises it by pretending it is happening to a friend of his and not himself. This shows Joe cannot tell anyone about the emotions that he is going through.
The second additional scene takes place on the beach when she is talking to Rock.
Shirley: What do you think Rock? Hey? What do you think about a woman leaving her husband unexpectedly to go on a holiday to Greece for a fortnight? And never coming back? I suppose that you can’t really understand what the hell I’m saying. But… I can’t help thinking what such a good time we used to have, him and me, especially when we had that paint fight when we were decorating our house. And yet it disappeared to somewhere, all that fun. And it never came back. I think he just became more pre-occupied with his job as time went on but he was just over the top. I mean just because I gave his dinner to Gillian’s dog and gave him egg and chips for a change he threw it in my lap. What kind of a relationship is that hey Rock? A bleedin’ one sided one if you ask me. He gives me the orders and I’m expected to do them. No questions asked. Its like I’m one of his colleagues at work. “You cut that piece of wood. You fill out those forms’.
Shirley: I mean its like I’ve broken some major health code violation or something!
What a poor old sod though. Actually Rock I’ll let you into a little secret. On one condition. You don’t tell anyone. I’m…starting to miss him!
This scene shows that Shirley finally has realised what Joe has been treating her like. An employee. He has all the authority over her and Shirley thinks this is ‘over the top’. Shirley shows here that there is not a mutual respect for one another that exists between them any more. It has become a one sided relationship between them with Joe demanding what he wants. Shirley can still remember though vividly what their relationship used to be like though and this starts to make her miss him.