ASK any frustrated baby-boomer housewife what their fondest dream is, their most heartfelt desire, and the answer is likely to be the same: living with a handsome young Greek on a sunny Aegean island with no cares in the world.

Shirley Valentine, the one-woman show premiered by scouser playwright supremo Willy Russell almost thirty years ago, asks the question – what if one woman had the sheer will to see this dream come true?

At the beginning, you certainly wouldn’t believe that the eponymous home-maker had it in her. Shirley (played wonderfully by Jodie Prenger) starts and ends her days thinking about the needs of her distant husband and her needy children. She chops chips and cooks eggs as her daily tasks, only interrupting this for regular sips of white wine.

A wall is her only companion, and is something of a poor conversationalist. On the surface, she seems well adjusted, jovial and free of worry. But as events progress, and a few revelations come to light, we begin to see the depths of her despair.

Shirley is one in a long line of Willy Russell’s ‘ordinary gals’, salt of the earth but intelligent and self-aware enough to see that she isn’t happy with the status quo.

Come the second act, an invitation to spend a fortnight forgetting her life in Greece proves to be too much for to resist, and turns out to be a life-changing experience for her (and her husband).

Filled with one-liners, pathos and expertly paced, Shirley Valentine is a tour-de-force helped in no small part by the excellent staging (the transition from tired Liverpool semi to Greek glamour is handled beatifully).

The real standout is Prenger herself, by turns ridden with woe and self-doubt before regaining her old bearing, humour and confidence.

A warning to the men however, this may open inquisitive minds, not just to the notion that ‘marriage is like the Middle East – there’s no solution”.

Shirley Valentine runs at the Theatre Royal Bath until Saturday.