The play entitled Shirley Valentine was written by Willy Russell who also wrote a play called Educating Rita. Shirley Valentine was written at the end of 1990, in November. It is set in Liverpool and Greece.
Willy Russell uses many different ways to show the small and big changes in Shirley’s life. For example Willy uses a normal kitchen wall (which is the main prop of the play) that Shirley uses quite a lot in the beginning of the play. Shirley talks to it like a normal person she always says “Don’t I wall” expecting some sort of answer. She talks about the kind of day she has had and who she has met to this wall. She asked all sorts of questions to the audience, and audience answers the questions but in there heads, she asks rhetorical questions. Shirley’s main dream is to go to Greece.
Shirley is seen as a normal house wife, with two children that have left home, she has a husband, and she always sticks to her routine, for example she always cooks her husband Egg and Chips on Tuesday and Steak on Thursday. Shirley lives in a small semi-detached house with a small front garden. Also at the beginning of the play depict the scenes show Shirley doing her domestic activities such as cleaning, making beds and gardening.
When she walks into the house the first thing she says is “Hello Wall,” which puts the idea in our heads that she is lonely and bored and has arrived at what is commonly known as a mid life crisis. Shirley is a person that everybody can relate to especially people who are married and have children who have grown up and left home. She feels her youth has escaped her. With Russell’s style of writing we the audience become Shirley’s soul mate a type of unseen cast and in this way we get quite a graphic insight of Shirley’s intimate thoughts.
Willy Russell uses flashbacks to look in to Shirley’s School life and what she got up to. The flashbacks begin when she met Marjorie Majors for the first time at the Adelphi Hotel. When they go in to the hotel they start talking about their school life.
Marjorie asks “Shirley to talk about herself from A to Z.”
Marjorie also reveals that she is not the Air hostess on Concord that every body thought she would be, in fact she is a first class hooker. Russell also uses flashbacks to bring humour into the play for example Shirley states that and she
‘Science is Crap’ calls Miss Dearden is a cow.
The flashback also gives an insight to what Marjorie Majors was like as well and they shows were both different. Shirley was a bit of a rebel and always picked on Marjorie, she always tried to get her into trouble but instead found herself in it. At school Shirley was not very bright and was expected not to do very well in later life. Meanwhile Marjorie was always sucking up to the teacher and was expected to do well and get a very good job according to the headmaster. Instead she is a first class hooker that travels all over the world.
There are not many similarities between Shirley and Marjorie, the only thing they have in common is they went to the same school. Marjorie is seen as a very rich person with a posh accent. She wears very rich clothes and has a limousine. Shirley on the other hand is seen a normal every day person with a Liverpool accent She wears normal high street clothes. She uses public transport i.e. taxis and buses. They both live in totally different environment, Shirley lives in a semi-detached house in Liverpool but Marjorie lives in hotels and travels all over the world Shirley has not been anywhere she can only dream of going to Greece.
When the flashbacks begin we get the impression that Marjorie Majors is wonderful, polite, and very intelligent and has never done any thing wrong. Shirley is putrid as a rebel, a trouble maker, not very intelligent and no hope for the future. As the play goes on we get completely different views of the characters adult lives. Our views of the two characters have been completely reversed. So, instead of Shirley being a rebel and a trouble maker she is now a mother of two, has a husband and is more mature now than she was in her school life. Marjorie on the other hand was known as a polite, charming pupil and now she is viewed as a whore and now travels all over the world doing this job.
Shirley is viewed through out the play as a normal person because of the activities she is doing in the book. The evidence to prove this is when she meets Marjorie in the hotel and she is seen with bags of shopping and she is also wearing normal high street clothes and she uses the public transport to get around. Another way to prove she is a normal housewife is when she talks about her cooking routine she says “I cook Egg and Chips on Tuesdays and Steak on Thursdays,”
There is loads more evidence to prove that Shirley could be real, for example she has a local accent. She went to school in the same area that she now lives. She also has friends near by. Shirley is put into many different situations and has played them like a normal person would. She changes her voice tone to mix in with the kind of situation she is put in.
The actress has done a great job making the part of Shirley Valentine as believable and realistic as possible. Russell has used all the resources of the actress as well as his own resources as a director. The reason for my decision is because of the way the play has the audience participating as the unseen cast. The dialogue is in the first person, she is speaking directly to us as if she is expecting us to reply or answer. The way she acts around different people, the way she dresses, and her cooking routine, they are all so normal and could easily be seen in any house in a working class family. This would undoubtedly have been a universal dream of many women in this time and Willy Russell took this and captured it in his play and subsequently it was depicted in the film of the same name.