ESK Valley Theatre complete a hattrick of Willy Russell plays with Shirley Valentine at the Robinson Institute, Glaisdale, near Whitby, from Thursday to August 28.
In Russell’s one-woman show, Coronation Street star Ashley Hope Allan plays middle-aged, bored Liverpool housewife Shirley in a story of self-discovery as she takes off to Greece with a friend, who promptly abandons her for a holiday romance. Left alone, Shirley meets charming taverna owner Costas.
After a gap year brought on by the Covid lockdown, Esk Valley Theatre, a professional theatre company rooted in the North York Moors National Park, return with Russell’s 1986 play, the winner of two Olivier Awards and a Tony before its conversion into Lewis Gilbert’s 1989 film starring Pauline Collins and Tom Conti.
Director Mark Stratton says: “Shirley Valentine is the third Willy Russell play we’ve produced after Educating Rita, with Amy Spencer as Rita and Ian Crowe as Frank in August 2016, and One For The Road, with Laura Bonnah, David Smith, Andrew Cryer and Joanne Heywood, in our tenth anniversary show in August 2014.
“It’s always a joy to direct his work. He has an economy of style and precision in his writing that always hits home and his ability to capture the wit and humour of Liverpudlians is second to none.”
Actor Ashley Hope Allan played the television medium Crystal Webber in Coronation Street, having appeared earlier in Emmerdale, The Crown and Nuzzle And Scratch.
Among her stage credits are A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Merry Wives Of Windsor and As You Like It for the Cambridge Shakespeare Festival and Sally Bowles in Cabaret.
Director Stratton is joined in the production team by producer Sheila Carter, designer and lighting designer Graham Kirk and costume designer Christine Wall.
Mark, who set up Esk Valley Theatre with Sheila in 2005, has had a varied career in theatres across Britain, as well as appearing in numerous television shows and films, most notably with Anthony Hopkins in Across The Lake, as a guest detective opposite Felicity Kendall and Pam Ferris in Rosemary & Thyme and as an American professor opposite Vidya Balan in the Bollywood movie Shakuntala Devi, released in July 2020.
Mark has performed in more than 20 pantomimes and will add Widow Twankey in Aladdin at Cast, Doncaster, to that list this winter.
Sheila has choreographed for many of Britain’s leading theatre companies, enjoying a long association with Alan Ayckbourn at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, where she has worked on many of his premieres.
She choreographed By Jeeves, the Ayckbourn and Andrew Lloyd Webber musical that ran in London, played at several theatres in the United States and ended up on Broadway.
She directed and choreographed Where Is Peter Rabbit? in its two London runs at the Theatre Royal Haymarket and has choreographed for film and TV too, including Franco Zeffirelli’s Jane Eyre in 1996.
Esk Valley Theatre’s Shirley Valentine can be seen at 7.30pm, Mondays to Saturdays, from August 5 to 28, complemented by 2.30pm matinees on August 7, 12, 14, 17, 19, 24, and 26. A post-show talkback will be held on August 18.
Tickets cost £16, concessions £15, on 01947 897587 or at eskvalleytheatre.co.uk.