Shirley Bradshaw walks on stage and looks at the audience and there is immediate contact. Actress and audience know it is going to be a good night, a memorable night and through many tears of laughter, tears of recognition and tears of sadness and great dollops of entertainment. Before the eyes of the audience Lynda Gough becomes the put upon housewife Shirley Bradshaw and through the accessible magic of theatre, she becomes the essential dreamer and realist, Shirley Valentine, as was and will be again. Many people in that opening night audience at Garter Lane also became a Shirley Valentine and felt again the sense of having put aside a part of you, to know disappointment and still survive and have fun doing it.

Gary Power productions are on a roll and not just with Shirley Valentine but with Stags and Hens due back to the Theatre Royal soon, but with this one-woman show, sold out for its initial week and almost sold out for a second week and certain to return later in the year. Gary Power directed with such flair and sense of detail and Lynda Gough was the consummate performer, knowing, inviting, involving.

Early on in the play, written by Willie Russell something is described as “great, brill, mega brill and doublefab” and I can only concur with Russell and the audience that it was indeed great, brill, megabrill, double fab and loop-de-loop with poetry, humanity and laughter.

One lingers abound – I hate the deleted daffodils…sex, a lot of pushing and shoving and very little in the end.

But this play is more than laughter; it has heart-rending pathos, tears of sadness, tears of recognition and tears of the human spirit as Shirley rediscovers the core of her existence.

Towards the end of the play there is an orgasm scene that is filled with the vitality, the lust for life and laughter and the wonderful humanity of this woman – Shirley Valentine. It wowed me, it delighted me, I felt lucky to be there and I sensed that many in the audience felt that magic.

In the last fifteen months, I have seen Mary McEvoy and Coronation Street actress Wendi Peters play this part but Lynda Gough brought an extra special excitement to the role and I forget she was Lynda Gough.

Paddy Dwan designed a fine set and insert scene, Valerie Stone painted it, John Grubb in wonderful moonlighting style lit the show.

Gary Power Productions return to the Theatre Royal with Stags and Hens in early March and stay at the Royal for a new production of Richard Harris’ Stepping Out In April. This is a show about women learning to dance but of course it is much more than that.