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REVIEW: Pauline Daniels in Shirley Valentine at the Royal Court
Liverpool echo

April 23 - May 9 2009

PAULINE Collins may have portrayed her on film - but Pauline Daniels remains the definitive Shirley Valentine for many fans of Willy Russell’s finely-tuned suburban comedy. The comedienne/actress/singer has played his desperate housewife on stage somewhere every year for the past decade. It’s a track record which means she knows the role inside out. Equally, there’s always a risk familiarity could lead to complacency.
But it’s obvious from the opening minute of this latest production at the Royal Court - helmed by original Shirley Valentine director Glen Walford - that Daniels truly relishes the role of the middle-aged mum on the edge of a mid-life crisis, teetering with potato peeler in hand and with only a kitchen wall to confide in.
Shirley Bradshaw has been a wife, mother and domestic drudge for so long she has forgotten the young, carefree, risk-taking Shirley Valentine who used to love life so much – until best friend Jane invites her on a girls’ only holiday to Greece that is.
That invitation - much debated as the deep fat fryer sizzles away in the corner cooking tea for the never-seen husband, Joe - sets the wheels in motion for a life-changing, life-enhancing experience for the 48-year-old housewife.
Russell (himself among last night’s audience) has always had an intuitive ear for women’s voices, and a keen eye for the comic minutiae of life. Daniels takes his mammoth monologue and runs with it, from kitchen sink to Greece’s sun-kissed sands.
Her Shirley is, rather like Mary Poppins, “practically perfect in every way”. I say practically because there is an argument to be made for a touch less bravado and a touch more wistfulness, in the first half at least.
But in the end the quibbles are really just that, because at heart this is a performance crafted with great love, warmth, and with masterful comic timing.
Shirley’s diatribe about Milk Tray man and the retelling of son Brian’s disastrous school nativity play generate gales of laughter, while the rather brutal pay off line from the moment Greek taverna owner Costas kisses her stretch marks is delivered beautifully.Mark Walkers has created the Rolls Royce of kitchen sets while the golden Greek sands turns almost amber as the swimsuit-clad Shirley finally finds the contentment she’s been searching for.

What´s on Stage.com , Liverpool
...Glen Walford, the play’s original director, has once again aided brilliantly in bringing further sparkle to the piece, so that all is lain out before the audience in a manner that guarantees the fact that audiences will both laugh and cry, as Russell’s exemplary words tumble forth...

...Liverpool comic Pauline Daniels who has taken ownership of Shirley Valentine, complete with log book, and has made it her her own, talking to the bloody wall as only she can. It is a role she loves, swimming confidently in Shirley's ample folds. Interestingly, then, the latest incarnation sees Daniels as the third person in the resurrected theatre marriage between Russell and the play's original commissioning director, ex-Everyman supremo Glen Walford.
Walford is back in town to take on a 21st century Shirley at the Royal Court, kicking off the Festival of Comedy. And, on press night, the only thing the men are full of is “it” - enthusiasm that is - as they dot themselves among a largely female packed house that is delighted to sit before the dishwashing diva in all her put-upon glory...


Shirley Valentine at the Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool
Pictures by Dave Evans

Shirley valentine


Macbeth strikes a chord

Scores of theatre-lovers braved heavy rains on Saturday night to attend the gala opening of Glen Walford's adaptation of Shakespeare's famous play Macbeth at the Frank Collymore Hall. Produced by the Gale Theatre of London and Barbados, the play is directed by Walford, a respected British director, with Barbadian-born Canadian actress Alison Sealy-Smith as Lady Macbeth and British actor Peter Temple as Macbeth.
It was a riveting performance by Sealy-Smith, including her delivery of the often-memerised quote "Out, damned spot!" so familiar to fans of the play.

Something wicked this way comes
The Barbados Advocate - 11th April 2008
Stories by Khalil Goodman

One of the most fascinating aspects of the Glen Walford-directed production of 'Macbeth' is her setting the play in an unknown forest and placing the witches more prominently in the centre of the action.
Filled with violent plots, supernatural intrigue, a fascinating look at the corruption of a man debatably by his own imagination or ambition, the play certainly has something for everyone.
Glen Walford chooses to place the witches more prominently in her production. Bedecked in unitards covered in animal print, the witches move throughout the play in fluid and appropriately bizarre ways. Walford's witches are young and otherworldly creatures, suggesting animal spirits of some Aboriginal nation more so than old hags.
The weird Sisters (played by Varia Williams, Ayesha Gibson and newcomer Ramona Grandison) are almost always present in the scenes of the play. When Lady Macbeth cries "Come you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here" the witches are behind, seemingly filling her with murderous cause and ruthless intent. The witches whisper into the ears of the characters, or just whisper at the edges of the action, overseeing and - it would seem - driving the plot to it's violent end.
While this certainly throws an interesting take on the production it does take some of the ambiguous nature out of the play.
Peter Temple playing the title role gives it his all, presenting Macbeth as both close kin to the fatally introspective Hamlet, as well as the power-wielding men of ill will like Richard III.
Temple's rendering of the line "...am in blood stepp'd in so far that, should I wade no more, Returning were as tedious as go o'er" is said in a voice so strangled and tired you can see he is just about to be overwhelmed, yet he clings to false bravado.
Alison Sealy-Smith plays her Lady Macbeth as a ruthless harridan rebuking her husband to commit murder rather than coaxing him, she smiles at him sexually one minute then rebukes him when he fails to do as he is told.
But slowly the two exchange roles with Temple becoming more vicious and Sealy-Smith slowly crumbling in preparation for the famous nightwalking scene.
All of the choking horror of the play is set in 'forest' stage production created by Martina Pile with Charles O'dell on drums and Ben Goddard (who also doubles as Ross) providing a haunting flute to accent some of the action.

macbeth newspaper pictures

The Stage www.thestage.co.uk

The Comedy of Errors - Ludlow Festival
If one of the marks of a successful production is to send a reviewer back to the play with renewed respect and insight, then Glen Walford’s Ludlow Festival The Comedy of Errors is a triumphant vindication of her choice. Probably Shakespeare’s first play and certainly his shortest, the piece is constantly patronised, pruned or heavily adulterated. Not here. The secret of the company’s artistic success is to acknowledge and exploit the brilliance of Shakespeare’s plotting; he outplots Plautus in spades. Everything is manically plot-driven; there is no pretence of literary sophistication or psychological subtlety. Highlighting the elements of frenetic farce is the key to unlocking the play’s vastly underrated performance potential. The result is an evening of hugely inventive exuberance and a convincing consistency of acting style. A rare event in summer festival Shakespeare, where Bardolatory is endemic: an audience without preconceptions relishing a play without pretention. Even the three minutes of rainfall were tears of laughter from an enchanted empyrean. The cast capitalise on the play’s preposterous absurdities by acknowledging them and revelling in them . In this they are fired and energised by the two superbly vaudevilled Dromios of Matthew Devitt and Roy Holder. As their bemused masters, the twin Antipholi, Andrew Pollard and Jonathan Markwood hover captivatingly on the brink of self-parody, as do the hilariously delerious, dementedly tormented Adele Lynch (Adriana) and Louise Shuttleworth (Luciana). Rodney Ford’s stunning set gives us a Turkish Ephesus, secretive, sensual, sinister, a bustling sea port, gateway to all manner of deception and distraction. It brilliantly exploits the resonance of Ludlow Castle’s inner bailey and is magically lit by Mark Dymock. We have waited too long in Ludlow for a production of such coherence and conviction.

'...The Bard’s short farce was performed with verve and gusto by a talented cast, under the brilliant directorship of Glen Walford. When festival chairman Ray Sykes brought Walford back to Ludlow, he charged her with creating a hit. She’s done exactly that and Ludlow Festival has a theatrical crackerjack on its hands...' The Shropshire Star

...'Walford has realised that performances need to be vocally and gesturally large to carry across this space, which is a lot harder to play than it may look. She also has an awareness of the production’s place as part of a festival, which has sometimes been missing in the past. This translates in practice into big vaudevillean performances of the kind that think “subtleties” are captions on foreign films... ' The Financial Times


Blithe Spirit at Holders Festival, Barbados

Noel Coward play a delightful comedy - a review by Orlando Marville

I have not seen anything like it for such a long time I dont know where to begin. I always thought Coward was both a little repetitive and rare in his comedy, but I was most pleased by the Caribbeanised adapatation of his play, Blithe Spirit which was staged by Gale Theatre of Barbados and London at the Frank Collymore Hall over the last two weeks. The Gale Theatre as it suggests is a combination of London professionals and local dramatic talent seldom seen in such brilliant cooperation...

...Special kudos must be paid to both the director/adaptor of the play Glen Walford and to
Miss Gayle who played the role of the medium from Kingston. She was brilliant
and entertaining. Her skills as a comedian were essential to the play
being a success...

....It marked a return to theatre of a standard that I have not seen for years in Barbados. I sincerely hope the that the Gale Theatre of London and Barbados grows from strength to strength and that the public attends everything they do. If this is the level of quality entertainment they are capable of, I certainly want more!'

Glen Walford pruduction of Blithe Spirit in Barbados
  Ludlow Castle – Midsummer Night's Dream 2006

What the press said:-
It was an inspired move to invite Glen Walford back to direct A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She creates vast loyalty among her actors and her stage team and that, in turn, adds to the pleasure of the audience. (Ludlow Advertiser)

The play was excellent with music, dance, comedy and drama unfolding before an enraptured, capacity crowd at Ludlow Castle. Walford’s choice of play was spot on for a balmy summer evening and will last long in the memory of those fortunate enough to see it. The youthful cast impressed…Matthew Devitt, whose portrayal of the deluded Bottom, was thoroughly outstanding. (Shropshire Star)

Matthew Devitt’s Bottom is the joy of the evening, whether struggling to prevent his head disappearing inside an ill-fitting breastplate or roaring like an old-style thesp, voice quavering with fake passion and leaning, exhausted, on nearby masonry. (The Times).

Jonathan Markwood’s Oberon cuts a commanding figure…former Royal Ballet principal Sarah Wildor brings the grace of her training to a mellifluous Titania. (Guardian)

Matthew Devitt is resplendent in the role (of Bottom)…the mechanicals are superb in this light-hearted rendition of Shakespeare’s tale of tangled romance. Played for laughs, their characters are not lost and the comradeship between the friends acts as a firm footing from which the slapstick can evolve. (Hereford Times)

From the start the set made clear this was going to be an epic production. A solitary tree took up most of the stage with tendrils spilling out over the castle walls…musically the effects were amazing…Jonathan Markwood showed a great sense of mischief when plotting, ably assisted by Aidan O’Neill who played Puck with panache and dangerous edge. (Kidderminster Shuttle)

Glen fired her cast with her own insight and enthusiasm. There is an irresistible ensemble spirit, full of impeccable projection, razor-sharp choreography and some superb comic inventiveness…the production is enchantingly lit by Mark Dymock, designed by Rodney Ford, and hauntingly enhanced by Carol Sloman’s score. This is midsummer festival magic at its most affirming. (Ludlow Advertiser).
Glen Walford at Ludlow Castle
Photo of Glen Walford by Richard Stanton
  Liverpool Everyman - The Winter's Tale
The Times - John Peter

At the Liverpool Everyman, Glen Walford sets The Winter's Tale in historical Japan, and when Camillo and Archidamus came on in their kimonos, my heart sank. Why Japan? After all, penitence and rebirth, which are at the centre of the play, are not themes you associate with Japanese theatre - or with Japanese life, either. But then, as the production unfolds, you begin to see the point. This is a cruel fairy tale; its main character is in the grip of a fabulous and irrational obsession, and the whole story is soaked in emotional violence. There's a limit to how realistically you can play all this, and Walford's style is "presentation" as much as impersonation. The movement is slightly ceremonial, as if the characters were not quite real: but the emotion they put accross is scorching. Instead of being an obstacle, the Japanese setting becomes a revelation. The design (Claire Lyth) and the lighting (Brian Harris) add their own essential poetry.
This is one of the most vital and original Shakespeare productions I've seen for some time. Walford is leaving the Everyman after six years; I should think the young audience who packed the place out and followed this glittering performance with tense attention will be sorry to see her go.
  Production picture
Design by Claire Lyth

Ludlow Castle – Midsummer Night's Dream
Birmingham Post – Richard Edmonds

Glen Walford's Midsummer Night's Dream, with its evocative musical score is every bit as admirable as Ms Walford's extremely moving hamlet which she staged here last year. Ms Walford has an admirable knack for getting things right and her text is beautifully spoken.

   Midsummer Night's Dream   
      Design by Rodney Ford  
    Ludlow Castle - Hamlet
Express & Star – Shirley Tart

We saw the most stunning performance from Ludlow Festival's 1998 Hamlet...add Glen Walford's superb direction and the believable reconstruction of Elsinore Castle in the 900 year old castle of the South Shropshire town and you have a recipe for success.

The Advertiser – Paul Stammers
Hamlet with all the hallmarks of a Glen Walford production: colour, pace and maximum use of the towering expanse of Ludlow Castle. Most directors would have played safe so it came as something of a surprise to find Walford had opted to travel off the beaten track, wringing out as much humour as possible from the script. The Scandinavian setting with viking-style motifs became eerie as dusk fell, the stage glowing with ultra-violet light. Theatre-goers are assured of a proffessional, lively performance which will challenge the traditional perception of Shakespeare's Hamlet.
Design by Rodney Ford

Ludlow Castle - Much Ado About Nothing
Richard Edmonds - Birmingham Post

Walford's Much Ado is a hands-down winner. The first (and most important) facet of the evening is the intelligent speaking of Shakespeare's words which come across to a critic parched of these things like a glass of pure spring water….the evening dances along like fine music on a summer night, ending in a firework display shooting over the ramparts as the lovers tie the knot. The fireworks symbolise the joys this evening provides.

Shropshire Star
The festival's new play director Glen Walford brought a new dimension to the open air setting with a spectacular performance of the romantic play.

Ian Barge - The Stage
Glen Walford's first Ludlow Festival production is the best for several years. Under grey English skies, this immensely vibrant, visually exciting Much Ado brings a blaze of Mediterranean colour to the west and windy Welsh Marches. The production has the courage of its convictions. The cast attacks a judiciously pruned text with exhilarating, imaginative energy. There is a palpable delight in delivery, a sense of shared artistic exploration under an astute director.

  Toyah in Much Ado
Toyah Willcox as Beatrice & Fo Cullen as Hero
  Leeds Grand Theatre – English Shakespeare Company - Comedy of Errors
Anne Pickles – Yorkshire Evening Post

From the start it is plain that Glen Walford's Comedy of Errors is to be a gutsy affair – vibrant, colourful and good, thumping fun. No mistake and no disappointment; Miss Walford and the English Shakespeare Company have combined to put belly-laughs back into the Bard's farce. Under Glen Walford's direction, a vigorous cast electrified Leeds Grand Theatre last night to open a run of sophisticated hilarity. It's unmissable.

Buxton Opera House
Manchester Evening News – Joan Seddon
What magic the English Shakespeare Company bring to Buxton. This wickedly funny, wondrously staged production is a web of enchantment. Glen Walford’s imaginative direction is robustly funny, yet captures the mystery of a play adrift on a sea of dreams. Vitality and enchantment are woven into every scenc. Shakespeare would have been pleased.

The Guardian – Pat Ashworth
What comes over strongly in Glen Walford's production is the sheer exuberance of it all; a joy and a fresh ness which led someone behind me to remark with surprise – ‘I didn’t know Shakespeare could be so funny’.
  Comedy of Errors  

The award has to go to ‘Tosca’ which was a brave and brilliant Everyman adaption of the play and the more famous opera, containing elements of each plus additions. It could so easily have fallen disastrously between two stools, and the fact that it succeeded so marvellously in retaining the feel of grand opera without any of the latter's longueurs is a tribute to its director Glen Walford and also to its musical director Paddy Cuneen. The two of them produced an evening of sublime playing.

Daily Post Liverpool – Philip key
My goodness, but director Glen Walford takes chances with her high camp version of Puccini's opera, Tosca at the Liverpool Everyman. She has pared it to essentials, used actors who voices only just managed the arias, and set it in a comic book fantasy land. But what an exciting production it was. This is opera as it has never been seen before, and is unlikely to be seen again.
  Tosca programme  



  Winter's Tale – Liverpool Everyman (1989)
Erlend Clouston – The Guardian

This is a cool, controlled and magnificent production. It triumphs because director Glen Walford has confronted a pig of a play – all those irrational decisions and ludicrous events – on its own terms. Bohemia and Sicily are translated into what looks like offshore islands of 16th century Japan. Bewildering to begin with the metaphor comes to support and feed Shakespeare's ideas with startling brilliance.

The Stage
For her swansong at the Everyman Glen Walford has produced a Winter's Tale of such splendour that it stands aloof like a monument 
   The Tempest – Liverpool Everyman
Irene McManus – The Guardian

Glen Walford's unusual new Tempest piles shock upon shock. A super cool young black Prospero, built like a mule-driver and cracking a ring master's whip in the centre of a sparkling circus ring. His daughter Miranda is graceful, gleaming, distinctly coffee coloured, and plumed like an exotic bird as she perches, dreamy and enchanted in a crescent moon. This is certainly a change from the run-of-the-mill meglomania colonialist wizard and dutiful daughter who has seized the island and turned its single retarded natives into their household slaves. The comic scenes make real sense in this novel framework. For once they work – they are actually funny.

Terry Morgan – Merseymart
Glen Walford's latest stab at the Bard at the Everyman is a beautiful and enchanting version of ‘the Tempest which is visually and aurally breathtaking, full of colour and music and action. I loved every second of it.  
  Macbeth – Liverpool Everyman
The Stage – Marjorie Bates Murphy

Glen Walford has done it again. She takes a Shakespeare play and re-presents it in an original and rivetting form, utterly captivating and also inteligent.
  Romeo and Juliet
Liverpool Echo – Joe Riley

Glen Walford's production of Romeo and Juliet is powerful and exciting. Latinate and alarming. It is never, never dull. Here is Shakespeare as you should like it: full of commonsense, intellegence and scholarship, and with no ruthless trampling underfoot of the original intent.
  Midsummer Night's Dream – Liverpool Everyman
Robin Thornber - The Guardian

What a dream is here! It may seem whimsical for the director Glen Walford to set Shakespeare in the Far East. But think about it. His dream world is no more classical Greece than it is Elizabethan Warwickshire. If we are going to fantasise, why not do it in the style of Bale or Sarawak? Which is what Glen Walford has done at the Liverpool Everyman. And it works astonishingly well.

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