Ten Jodie Prengers for the price of one!

Jodie Prenger as Shirley Valentine        Photo by Manuel Harlan
Jodie Prenger as Shirley Valentine Photo by Manuel Harlan
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People often ask Jodie Prenger ‘Who’s playing the Greek?’ when they hear she’s touring in Willy Russell’s Shirley Valentine.

The answer, of course, is Jodie is, just as she is playing every other character.

It’s a one-woman show. She clocked up her 100th performance in early June; and she will be on the road with the show through until October.

The production comes in celebration of the show’s 30th anniversary. It plays Brighton Theatre Royal from Monday-Saturday, July 17-22.

“30 years! And it is still so poignant today. When I meet people at the stage door, people are still loving it, this show which comes with such a big message: are you living your life to the full?”

Shirley is a Liverpool housewife. Her kids have left home and she makes chips and egg for her husband while talking to the wall. Where has her life disappeared to? Out of the blue, her best friend offers her a trip to Greece for two weeks and she secretly packs her bags. She heads for the sun and starts to see the world and herself very differently…

Part of the pleasure for Jodie has been meeting Willy Russell himself: “I don’t think anyone should be that talented! It is just not normal! He can write. He can act. He is a phenomenal fine artist. It is just stunning what he can do. It is just not normal!

“And yet he is so down to earth, a lovely, lovely man. You are thinking ‘Oh my god, I am going to meet Willy Russell!’ and then he is just lovely. You worry you are going to do it wrong, and then you see how lovely he is.

“It came through my agent, and then I went for a meeting with (the director) Glen (Walford) and then meeting Willy Russell. Throughout the rehearsals, Willy was coming in every week. It was great. He knows exactly what he wants, how he sees it, how it hears it.”

And no, that’s not inhibiting for the performer.

“It’s great. It allows you to be honest with the words. You don’t have to change things because it is all there in black and white. When it is so well written, when it is a classic you are talking about, you don’t mess around with it.”

A big part of the challenge is that it falls to Jodie to convey every single character: “You pay for one ticket, and you get ten Jodie Prengers! And you have got to remember that every single character comes into Shirley’s life for a reason, and you have got to convey all of it. But he is so clever the way he has created it.”

But what’s it like being alone on tour?

“Well, I have got the wall to talk to!

“But the brilliant thing about theatre is that there is always something new to learn. By doing one-woman shows, you push yourself out of your comfort zone. I had done a play, One Man, Two Guvnors, but really this is a whole new area for me.”

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