EXPECT plenty of laughs and tears as a new stage production of Shirley Valentine comes to Salisbury Playhouse next week.

It runs in the Main House from Tuesday (February 25) and runs until Saturday, March 7.

The new Everyman staging stars Claire Sweeney (Brookside, Chicago and Guys and Dolls) playing the title role of Shirley who is feeling stagnant and stuck in a rut in her empty nest, preparing egg and chips for her emotionally distant husband.

When the opportunity arises to leave Merseyside behind for a holiday in Greece, Shirley leaves a note and heads for the sun where she starts to see the world and herself very differently.

The production sees Claire make her Salisbury Playhouse debut. On bringing the one-woman show to the Playhouse, she says: “I’m very, very excited. It’s been a mixture of fear and excitement because it is a one-woman show. It’s me on my own talking for two-and-a-half hours which is terrifying.”

“It is so easy to be comfortable and stay in your comfort zone,” continues Claire. “I’m very much like Shirley Valentine, were from the same place, but I’m still stepping outside of my comfort zone in the fact that you are basically learning a novel. It is hard.”

Shirley Valentine, by Willy Russell, has won multiple Olivier and Tony awards and was adapted into an Oscar-nominated film starring Pauline Collins and Tom Conti.

“It’s wonderful [to be playing Shirley] and I’m at the right age to play that part now. I can really relate to the woman,” says Claire

“She’s just fabulous and it is so well written. Willy Russell, his writing is incredible.”

“I’ve always been [a fan of Shirley Valentine],” says Claire, who previously did Willy Russell’s Educating Rita. “I’m thrilled I get to do Shirley.

“What I’m going to bring to the role? I’m going to bring me. Just honesty, I can relate to everything that she is saying and where she’s from.

“It comes to life by itself and it’s got a wonderful director, Ian Talbot, who I’ve been wanting to work with for a long time. I’m in safe hands with him. I’m absolutely thrilled.”

On what audiences can expect, she says: “I think they can expect a lot of laughter, a few tears and just this woman’s journey that everyone can relate to it.”

“It is wonderful and side-splittingly funny and it is not dated.”

For tickets go to wiltshirecreative.co.uk or call 01722 320333.