Acclaimed Canadian actress Nicola Cavendish has been performing the play Shirley Valentine for 23 years around the country, and she’s about to put the play to rest in Qualicum Beach.
Her first production of the show was in 1989, after she learned the lines in the back of a Volkswagen van her husband was driving in the desert near Palm Springs.
She said there were a lot of lines to learn in this one-woman-show and that had her worried.
“I was terrified because it was an enormous load,” she said. “Basically you become a hostess to great party that’s going to happen for everyone in the theatre.”
But she pulled it off and continued to perform it to sold out audiences across the country. The terror she had slowly retreated, she said, and over the years she has instead become filled with confidence and new skills.
Although she has always liked the play, it has taken on new meaning since the death of her husband last year, she said.
The play surrounds the life of a housewife in England who finds herself stuck in a rut. She recognizes she’s not feeling happy and fulfilled, Cavendish said, and the message that life is a miracle and we’re only here for a short time certainly rings true with Cavendish now.
“I saw death happen in my arms, and watched someone who I love very much one minute be alive and the next minute be dead…” she said. “So when you see that, when you hold it in such close proximity, it really opens your eyes to what it means to be alive.”
Willy Russell wrote the play as a writing exercize, Cavendish explained, after writing down things women in his barbershop were saying to each other. In this way he captured real language by real women, she said, and that kind of truth is the best penned line.
This will be Cavendish’s last public showing of the play, she said, and she loves the idea of finishing her run in her own little village of Qualicum Beach.
“It just seems like an appropriate, gentle, small setting,” she said. “There’s an intimacy in this theatre where I can truly enjoy saying farewell to (Shirley Valentine).”
Shirley Valentine: Just the Words will play at the Village Theatre from Tuesday August 21 to Sunday August 26. Tickets are $20 (cash only) and can be purchased at the door from 60 minutes before each performance. A half price preview will take place Aug. 21 at 2 p.m. and matinees take place Wed., Sat, and Sun at 2 p.m. Evenings shows happen from Aug 22 to 26 at 7:30 p.m. each night.