Sally Reid as Shirley Valentine. Credit Fraser Band.
Sally Reid as Shirley Valentine. Credit Fraser Band.

Sally Reid reprises her role as Shirley Valentine: ‘The ideas behind the story still feel very familiar to a lot of people’

It’s been nearly 40 years since Willy Russell wrote Shirley Valentine, his monologue about a middle-aged, working class Liverpool housewife and her transformational solo holiday in Greece.

But as Sally Reid prepares to play the iconic role of Shirley for a second time at Pitlochry Festival Theatre, she says there is a lot about the original story that still resonates with audiences today.

The last time the Scot Squad star took on the role nearly two years ago, she received an Outstanding Performance gong for her rendition. But much has changed for Reid since then. 

‘It’s always exciting to return to something that people responded to so well the first time around, and really got something from,’ Reid says.

‘But I feel differently about some of the things this time around. 

‘I am in a different place than I was two years ago. I am older than Shirley is in the play this time and I resonate with different parts of the character now. 

‘There are some bits I am digging much deeper into than I did last time. Time moves on and we evolve so it’s only natural to have a different take on it second time around.

‘The story is all about growing and changing, and that’s what is happening in life too.

‘Re-reading it I have laughed so much, and at bits I can’t remember finding funny before. I have really taken something different from it this time around.

‘When you are making something for the first time there is a certain element of pre-show stress and nerves about getting it right and wondering if people will enjoy it.

‘I am more relaxed now, you could say, because we already know it works.’

Credit Fraser Band.

Loved by fans of Scot Squad for her deadpan humour in her role as PC Sarah Fletcher, Reid has a humour that comes from a character’s personality.

‘You’re going in the back door of comedy with Shirley and Willy Russell’s writing really allows you to do that. 

‘Shirley is not telling jokes in a comedic sense, but she has this incredible wit, which makes us all laugh. She is funny, she has funny bones, and I find that so interesting.’

Much has changed since 1986, but women still often feel the need to conform to society’s expectations. It’s part of the play Reid feels still strikes a chord with the audience.

‘The ideas behind the story still feel very familiar to a lot of people. It’s about life, and we all do that.

‘It’s all about reimagining yourself or getting back to the true sense of you, because that’s all we’ve got.

‘When I would meet people from the audience after the last shows women would say to me they felt like they were Shirley,’ she says.

‘They would say “wow that’s me, it’s like you were telling my story up there”

‘But this was written nearly 40 years ago, it’s essentially a period piece.

‘Back then, Shirley felt middle aged at 42 and that her life was over. But we don’t have the same feelings about middle age now.

‘A lot of people are just starting out their lives and building families at 42, so that point of view has certainly changed since it was originally written.

Credit Fraser Band.

‘But I do think people can still feel trapped in a marriage or a situation and see no way out.

‘Many people still think life’s got to be a conventional, a black and white scenario. 

‘If someone adopts a modern way of living, it’s seen as bohemian. But we don’t need to follow the rules. We have a long way to go on that aspect.

‘The play reflecting back on the way things used to be is probably a good thing, to be able to say we have more options now and just think where could we go with that in the next 40 years.’

The Pitlochry Festival Theatre production will open in Pitlochry from 4 July – 28 September

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