Actress and director Mavourneen Varcoe-Ryan

Actress and director Mavourneen Varcoe-Ryan

Local actress takes to the stage to bring Shirley Valentine to life

Actress looking forward to tackling "the part of a lifetime".

It’s a huge part, that of Shirley Valentine, in the play of the same name by Willy Russell: close to 17,000 words, delivered over nearly two hours by one actress who is alone on stage from start to finish. And actress Mavourneen Varcoe-Ryan is relishing the opportunity to tackle the part of a lifetime.

“Playing Shirley Valentine has been on my bucket list for years,” says the Spences Bridge resident, who graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Victoria. “I saw a production of it starring Nicola Cavendish many years ago, and loved it right away.”

She intended to go into acting as a career, and upon graduating became heavily involved in amateur theatre; her first part was playing Elaine in the black comedy Arsenic and Old Lace. She also acted in projects for a friend who was studying direction at UBC, and through that was offered the role of Pegeen Mike, the protagonist in J.M. Synge’s classic of Irish theatre, The Playboy of the Western World. It was the first of many projects with Stage Eireann.

Varcoe-Ryan won two Theatre BC Festival awards: Best Actress (as Maggie in Lovers) and Best Supporting Actress (as Joan in Remembrance). When she moved to Harrison Hot Springs she appeared as Gwendolen Fairfax in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. It was in Harrison that she also got her first taste of directing, when she helmed a production of the play Canadian Gothic.

“I took directing as an extra component when I was working toward my BFA,” she says. “And I got into it at Harrison because there wasn’t a director willing to enter a show at the Theatre BC Festival.”

After she moved to Spences Bridge, Varcoe-Ryan became involved with the Winding Rivers Arts & Performance Society, in its various incarnations, and ended up directing many of its productions—some at the Opera House—because there was no one else available. She also directed the theatrical component of the Christmas concerts at Spences Bridge Elementary, until the school closed in 2003. While she was still able to act on occasion—most recently she played Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Mid-Term—it was difficult to balance the two things. “I love directing; but I’d rather be on stage.”

The part of Shirley Valentine is, she says, “a great showcase piece for an actress to do. It’s very meaty.” Shirley is a fifty-two-year-old married mother of two who has resigned herself to a life of tedium, when an offer of a fortnight in Greece with a girlfriend makes her wonder what possibilities life might still hold.

“It’s a wonderful part,” says Varcoe-Ryan. “Willy Russell puts so much humour with so much despair. Everyone will recognize someone in this play: their mother, themselves, their husband or wife. Or they’ll recognize some aspect of these characters.”

Although other characters are invoked during the course of the play—Shirley’s husband Joe, her two children, friends—it’s Shirley herself, with all her strengths, flaws, and insecurities, who holds the stage throughout. Varcoe-Ryan is grateful to WRAPS for allowing her the opportunity to play the part.

With Varcoe-Ryan taking centre stage, a new director had to be found; and Barbara Roden has stepped up to take the reins. “I hate to be that cliché—the actor who has always really wanted to direct—but it’s something I’ve been interested in doing for a long time,” she says. “It’s a fascinating experience; and at least I know that if I have any questions about directing, all I need to do is call for a break and talk to my leading lady.”

Shirley Valentine—a presentation of the Winding Rivers Arts & Performance Society—will be at the Ashcroft HUB from March 11–13.


Just Posted

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Over 5K jabbed at Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics

The clinics have made stops in more than 40 communities since launching last week

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interior Health COVID-19 cases falling slower than the rest of B.C.

More than a third of provincial cases announced Thursday came from the Interior

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Second dose vaccinations accelerating throughout region: Interior Health

To date, more than 675,000 doses have been administered throughout the region

Okanagan Lake (File photo)
Thompson-Okanagan ready to welcome back tourists

The Thompson-Okanagan Tourism Association expects this summer to be a busy one

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Chilliwack secondary school’s principal is apologizing after a quote equating graduation with the end of slavery in the U.S. was included in the 2020-2021 yearbook. (Screenshot from submitted SnapChat)
B.C. student’s yearbook quote equates grad to end of slavery; principal cites editing error

Black former student ‘disgusted’ as CSS principal apologizes for what is called an editing error

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

A coroner’s inquest will be taking place at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni for the next week. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Teen B.C. mom who died following police custody recalled as ‘friend to many’

Police sent Jocelyn George to hospital after intoxication had gone ‘beyond the realm’ of normal detox

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton band chief condemns suspicious burning of 2 Catholic churches

Both Catholic church fires are deemed suspicious, says RCMP

COVID-19 daily cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day moving average to June 17, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections drop to 90 on Sunday, 45 Monday

Pandemic spread dwindles as 77% of adults receive vaccine

By protesting uninvited in First Nations’ territories, conservationists are acting in a neocolonial or paternalistic manner, says Huu-ay-aht Chief Robert Dennis. Photo by Heather Thomson
A closer look: do Vancouver Island First Nations support the war in the woods?

First Nations/environmentalist old growth alliance uneasy, if it exists at all

A blood drive in support of 1-year-old Rielynn Gormley of Agassiz is scheduled for Monday, June 28 at Tzeachten First Nation Community Hall in Chilliwack. Rielynn lives with type 3 von Willebrand disease, which makes it difficult for her to stop bleeding. (Screenshot/Canadian Blood Services)
Upcoming blood drive in honour of Fraser Valley toddler with rare blood condition

The Gormley family has organized a blood drive in Chilliwack on June 28

Most Read