Have you been to the theatre recently? No, neither had I. I mean, who has the time to make these outings come about? It’s a bloody miracle in the first place to get a date, which doesn’t involve 90 billion WhatsApp messages. THEN somebody has to book it, and THEN you have to extricate yourself from your household and ensure that spouses aren’t away out running the roads while you entertain the notion of a soirée. Our beloved babysitter has had the temerity to get herself three A’s in her A-levels and feck away off to university in Bristol. Yes, Bristol. What fecking use is that to me, at 8 O’clock of an evening in September, when I need to get FAR AWAY from the endless sea of socks and laundry baskets with their overflowing entrails and an island which looked glorious in MAKE Kitchens but is now just a repository for bills, school newsletter bulletins and half eaten fish fingers. It’s usually Wednesdays which floor me altogether and I think to myself: ‘If I don’t get out of this BLOODY house and get a dinner and a glass of chilled Sauvignon in Shed Bistro I’m just retreating under the duvet until March at the very least.’
You see? This is why people don’t pay me to do reviews. 212 words in and I still haven’t told you the name of the play I saw last night or indeed where I saw it. It was a serendipitous turn of events, that I actually had no plans whatsoever and my friend texted on Friday night. ‘I have a free ticket for Shirley Valentine at the Lyric,’ read her message. ‘Can you make it?’
‘YES!!!” I replied, ‘I’m in!’ Oh the GLEE readers, at a night of emancipation where I had to do ABSOLUTELY nothing, other than clean my teeth and throw on a frock and be waiting at the door at 7pm.
Perhaps you think you don’t need theatre in your lives, what with us all currently inhabiting a Theatre of The Absurd, more barking than Ionesco or any of those French Existensialists could ever have imagined. But I tell you, that this production starring the gorgeous Tara Lynn O’Neill (the Ma from Derry Girls) is essential for your well-being. Art, in its many forms, should give one the chance to transcend the banal, offering respite from the humdrum, so it’s ironic, given the subject matter of Shirley Valentine, that you find yourself enthralled, watching someone else fry eggs and chips while they talk to the ‘Wall’. in the kitchen. And therein, lies the joy- theatre effortlessly aping life as we know it. Maybe our husbands aren’t useless gobshites; maybe we have travelled extensively, or enjoyed a university education; we still, somehow identify with her, and that wonderful phrase ‘unused life’ hits us right in the solar plexus.
In her review in the Irish News, Jane Hardy said that O’Neill was luminous as the eponymous heroine. I couldn’t say it better myself, so I’m not even going to try. If you remember the film, (and I do, because I just adored it,) you’ll recall the conspiratorial relationship between Pauline Collins and the viewer, and O’Neill does the same with aplomb, creating a real sense of rapport with the audience. So much so, that when she fluffed a line and at one point put a shoe on the wrong foot, we loved her all the more for it. ‘Thank fuck for that,’ I thought. What mere mortal manages to keep us utterly rapt, performing a monologue for 105 minutes? Jeepers, but it could make a buddy feel inadequate alright.
Standing ovations sometimes make me cringe a bit. You know where you think, ‘Oh should I get up? I actually wasn’t that dying about it but the person beside me has clambered to their feet and I’ll look like a right malcontent if I don’t shift my arse.’ Well, there was no second guessing myself here because I was up and clapping and shouting WHOO HOO! and wanting to give the star a hug afterwards.
In short, just book a bloody babysitter and have a night out. Go the whole hog: order a glass of Porto 6 as a pre-theatre beverage and pre-book one for the interval. Go on your own, bring your mate, bring your mum or give me a shout and I’ll go again if you fancy it. It’s a delight, and you know me by now: I’m a sour wee bastard. I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t mean it.
(For a superb review, do check out Alan’s here. He actually talks about the play, and not just himself. He’s professional like that, is Alan.)