From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Taking the form of a monologue by a middle-aged, working class Liverpool housewife, it focuses on her life before and after a transforming holiday abroad. Wondering what happened to herself, now feeling stagnant and in a rut, Shirley finds herself regularly talking to the wall while preparing her husband's chips 'n' egg, until her best friend wins a trip-for-two to Greece. Without a second thought, she packs her bags, leaves a note on the kitchen table, and heads for a fortnight of rest and relaxation. What she finds is romance and a new awareness of who she is and what her existence can be with just a little effort on her part.
Commissioned by the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool, the play premiered in 1986, with Noreen Kershaw directed by Glen Walford. Two years later it opened in London's West End at the Vaudeville Theatre, with Pauline Collins, directed by Simon Callow.
After eight previews, the Broadway production, with Collins again directed by Callow, opened on February 16 1989 at the Booth Theatre, where it ran for 324 performances. Ellen Burstyn replaced Collins later in the run.
Loretta Swit starred in a US national tour in 1995.
Russell adapted his play for the 1989 film version directed by Lewis Gilbert. Collins reprised her stage role, and the characters to whom Shirley merely had referred on stage were portrayed by Tom Conti, Alison Steadman, Joanna Lumley, Bernard Hill, and Sylvia Sims. The film was partly shot on Mykonos, one of the Cyclades islands in the Aegean Sea.
Quotes from the film
- "I'm not saying she's a bragger. But if you've been to Paradise, she's got a season ticket! If you've got a headache, she's got a brain tumour!"
- Joe: I always get my tea at 6 o'clock!"
Shirley: Well, just think how exciting it'd be, if for once, you had it at a quarter past six? It'd make the headlines. "World Exclusive". "Joe Eats Late"
- "It's not right, is it? I mean, if God had wanted you to create a vegetarian dog he'd have made you a yogurt hound; or a Veggie-burger hound...but you're a blood hound. You need meat!"'
- "I said, Joe, have you ever heard of the clitoris? He didn't even look up from his paper. Yeah, he says. But it doesn't go as well as the Ford Cortina!"
- "Well, tickle my tits till Friday!"
- Shirley: That's right, Milandra, I'm off to Greece for the sex. Sex for breakfast, sex for lunch, sex for tea and sex for supper.
Neighbour: Sounds like a marvellous diet, love!
Shirley: "It is! Have you never heard of it? It's called the F plan!"
- "To her, I am no longer Shirley Valentine, middle-aged housewife beginning to sag a bit"
- "Jane left her husband. It was before I met her. Apparently, she came home early one day and found him in bed with the milkman! Honest to God, the milkman! From that day on, I've noticed she never takes milk in her tea.
- "You really know how to talk to women, don't you? I mean, most men, they've got no idea. They feel they have to take over the conversation. I mean, with most men, if you say something like my favourite season is Autumn, they go whoa whoa whoa, my favourite season is Spring! And then you've got 10 minutes of them, talking about Spring when you weren't even talking about Spring, you were talking about Autumn!"
- "So don't talk to me about the English. Because while the Greeks were building roads and cities and temples, what were the English doing? I'll tell you what the English were doing. They were running around in loincloths, plowing up the earth with the arse bone of a giraffe!
- "It's a good thing we're not having soup. Otherwise, I'd put me head in it and drown myself!"'
- "I'm not really fond of it, sex! I think sex is like a supermarket. Just a whole lot of pushing and shoving and you still come out with very little in the end."
- "He kissed my stretch marks!"
Awards and nominations
- Laurence Olivier Award for Best Comedy (winner)
- Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actress (winner)
- Tony Award for Best Play (nominee)
- Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play (winner)
- Theatre World Award for Outstanding Broadway Debut (winner)
- Drama Desk Award for Outstanding New Play (nominee)
- Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Play (winner)
- Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Director of a Play (nominee)
- Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Actress (winner)
- Academy Award for Best Actress (nominee)
- Golden Globe Award for Best Actress, Comedy or Musical (nominee)
- BAFTA for Best Film Actress (winner)
- BAFTA for Best Screenplay (winner)