Anyone out and about on a cold, wet, windy mid July night needed a very good reason to be so inclined.

Those at the Shambles Theatre on Friday night had the perfect reason - they went to be entertained by Shirley Valentine, one of the best one-woman shows this city's seen in a long while.

In Liz Carrington they found a local performer well-qualified for such an ambitious solo role.

From curtain up, Carrington had her audience absorbed as she launched into a 90-minute monologue, delivered in an accent that's pure Scouse - impressively so, if it's not her 'native' tongue.

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Equally impressive is Carrington's multi-tasking ability. It's no mean feat frying eggs and chips on stage while faultlessly delivering non-stop lines reflecting on how the carefree single girl Shirley once was has morphed into wifely mediocrity.

Can it really be 30-plus years since 'women of a certain age' became hooked on the Shirley Valentine syndrome, following her dream of self reinvention?

Isn't, they asked then, a Shirley inside us all? Someone who talked to her kitchen wall for lack of more stimulating conversation, opining and reminiscing on years which, to borrow from the script, reflect on a life unused?

They yearned to be Shirley, she did something about it - she went to Greece and stayed.

Dated thoughts? Maybe, but Shirley Valentine remains an 80s classic and the Shambles crew's stayed true to that.

For a work created by a man (Willy Russell), Shirley Valentine's outpourings are a perceptive insight into the angst of middle aged womanhood.

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Unseen characters flitting in and out of Shirley's discourse become living, breathing people and, when once in Greece and alone again (but satisfied), she talks to a rock, who can't become a believer that life is what you make it.

With the stage-savvy Richard Rugg directing, this was always set to be a top class production.

It is - and definitely a must see, however foul the weather.

■ For tickets call (07) 348 8614 Monday to Saturday, 11.30am-1.30pm.

Review

What: Shirley Valentine

Where: Shambles Theatre:

When: July 15-23