Shirley Valentine

CHRISTOPHER SMITH The Maddermarket shows some courage in tackling a play that was turned into a splendid film.

CHRISTOPHER SMITH

Comparisons can be onerous. So the Maddermarket shows some courage in tackling a play that Lewis Gilbert and Pauline Collins turned into a splendid film with a dozen vivid minor characters, the isles of Greece in the background and a whole symphony orchestra at the climax.

But fortune favours the brave, and Willy Russell's original play comes across fresh and bracing in this production by Rhett Davies.

Shirley Valentine is played by Judi Daykin. For two hours, she holds us in the hollow of her hand. Remembering so many lines is a true feat of concentration, and peopling the empty stage so richly is fine acting.

There is laughter aplenty, perhaps a little too much, as the dramatist strains for extra quips. What really makes things work, though, is the beautifully economical device of concentrating everything into a single role.

t Shirley Valentine continues until February 23. Box office: 01603 620917.