A full house awaited the curtain to go up in Bembridge Village Hall on Saturday night, a sprinkling of Greek music whetting the appetite for what was to come.

Everyone was there in anticipation of a one-night-only performance by Hanna  Emily Nixon as Shirley Valentine, in the Willy Russell play - best known now as a film starring Pauline Collins.

But a play it was originally, and here was a chance to see it, thank to Bembridge Little Theatre Club.

How would all the characters be portrayed, simply by means of a one-woman monologue?

It all became clear when we joined Shirley in her kitchen, and she chatted away to the wall, as she cooked her husband chips and egg for his tea.

Only it was Thursday, and he always has mince on Thursday (or steak, in the film version). What would he think when his world was turned so upside down, by him being given chips and egg? 

His aggressive reaction was the catalyst that made Shirley take action and do the unthinkable - she would take up her friend Jane's offer and go to Greece on holiday. Only she wouldn't tell her husband beforehand.

"Two women going to Greece on their own, it's disgusting," was the verdict of daughter Sharon-Louise.

Of course, we didn't see these characters. But they were there, brought to life in the domestic drama through Hanna's amazing array of accents and impersonations.

It was impressive stuff.  Not only were there a lot of words to learn and the Scouse accent to master, the telling of the story required delicate handling. There was plenty of humour and some classic lines of course, but it was the quiet moments that hit the hardest. 

Shirley was having something of a mid-life crisis. It was the 1980s and it was unusual for a woman to leave suburbia and domestic drudgery and take off abroad.

Although some elements of the 1980s-written play have dated - for example the idea that the age of 42 was mid-life and somewhat over-the-hill - the difficulty of upping and leaving still seemed relevant today.

The reasons for not feeling able to 'get away' - to escape abuse, poverty or drudgery... these feelings were explored with sensitivity through the pathos of the play and Hanna's portrayal of Shirley.

When the curtains opened for the second half to reveal Shirley sunbathing in foreign climes, the audience cheered! She'd done it!

The second half was set in Greece, but it wasn't all fun and sun. There was bravery, there was soul-searching, there was a reality to face... with a husband back home to deal with. But Shirley was ready.

It's a cracking play, and Hanna and the theatre team really did it justice.

Isle of Wight County Press: Hanna Emily Nixon as Shirley ValentineHanna Emily Nixon as Shirley Valentine (Image: Claudine Murray)