Shirley Valentine, played by Sarah Nathan and directed by Nick Wilkinson, reviewed by Geoff Lewis.

So often relationships start with such enthusiasm and slowly devolve into something like - Shirley Valentine - a tale of drudgery and escapism portrayed by Sarah Nathan as part of the Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival.

The play was an instant success when it was first staged in Britain in 1986, earned a list of awards for playwright Willy Russell, and was almost immediately made into a movie.

Shirley Valentine, 42, is a frustrated working-class, Liverpool housewife married to Joe, also an unhappy camper, in a relationship in which the flame was extinguished some time ago.

Imprisoned in domesticity, Shirley spends a lot of time talking to the walls.

One day friend Jane comes up with two tickets for a holiday in sunny Greece and an unexpected opportunity to escape. Shirley takes up the offer, and longer story shorter, she goes to Greece, discovers a whole new self, a Greek lover, and soon decides she isn't going back.

For Nathan, Creative Waikato CEO with a long involvement in the Hamilton theatre scene, the opportunity presented a new challenge.

I'd seen the movie in the '80s and the stage show in the '90s. I was 20 years younger at the time and remember just being entranced. Now I'm 50, I thought "it's now or never girl.''


Nathan had just come out of (Hamilton Operatic's production of) Mary Poppins in December and went straight into learning Shirley Valentine and the hour-and-a-half rapid-fire monologue.

"I don't have a great memory. I'd never done a show like this before and it freaked me out that I had to get all that into my head.''

Nathan rose to the challenge and played the intense and witty script with humour and empathy.

Shirley Valentine was directed by well-known Hamilton actor and director Nick Wilkinson. Nathan's next target, hopefully within the next year, is God of Carnage and comedy-drama about four New York parents who come together to discuss the wayward behaviour of their children and end up discovering themselves.

Shirley Valentine opened on Valentine's Day with further performances at 6pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the Medici Court at Hamilton Gardens, Tickets at 0800842538 or through