Shirley Valentine has never really left Glenda Hagenson.
The Oamaru actor has played the role of Valentine, known for leaving her inattentive husband and life of domestic servitude for dreams of travel, in four different productions, most recently at the Oamaru Repertory Theatre.
Oamaru audiences laughed and cried as Hagenson took them through Valentine’s liberation from a life expected of her to one of fulfillment.
She first took up the role in 2011 for the Waiuku Theatre Group, and was nominated for best actress at the Auckland Community Trust theatre awards for her performance.
The Oamaru Repertory Theatre president was not sure how it would be received by North Otago audiences.
But the one-woman show, which ran from June 25 to July 10, was a hit.
Many people stayed behind to chat with Hagenson, some unable to recognise her when she emerged after the show out of character.
“I guess it means I became a different person.”
Hagenson’s husband, Andrew King, directed the production – ”not that he had to do much” as the pair had worked together on it before, she said.
It was Hagenson’s fourth time playing Valentine and it was like picking up an old friend.
“She’s never really left me, to be honest,” she said.
“I think it gets a bit better every time, because hopefully I’m not just delivering lines and it’s just me now.”
Hagensen said, for a long time she lived her life like Valentine.
“Everyone can relate to not fulfilling their potential; it’s other stuff that gets in the way.”
Hagenson grew up on a farm in Waiuku and started acting in 2005, after joining the local theatre group.
Taking her two children along, she passed on the acting bug. Now adults, her son, Liam, has written and directed plays, and her daughter, Sian, was musically talented.
Both travelled from the North Island to watch her perform as Valentine in Oamaru, as did one of King’s sons.
Her fifth grandchild was born during the show’s opening week.
“All of the grandkids are on Andrew’s side, but they are all my babies.”
She and King met at the theatre group, both playing lead roles in a production.
Their respective marriages had recently broken up, and they were able to support one another.
“We were both, at the same time, going through the same thing.
“Having so much in common, we just clicked.”
King was a keen motorcyclist and Hagenson would ride passenger during trips.
But after “getting sick of looking at the back of his head” she bought her own bike for their long-haul tours. On one of their trips, they visited Oamaru. Enamored by the seaside town’s historic buildings and having a desire to live in the South Island, they decided to move there.
“We like smaller towns .. there’s more community and less stress.”
Used to a North Island climate, they stayed in Oamaru for a week during winter to test it out, and made the permanent move in 2018.
They have since joined the North Otago branch of The Ulysses Club of NZ – King serves as president, and Hagenson as the treasurer and secretary.
Hagenson also took up the role of Oamaru Repertory Society president.
The society’s Itchen St theatre was about to go through some changes, she said.
Its changing rooms would be converted into a bar and lobby, its current bar would be transformed into changing rooms, and a lift would be installed.
Renovations would hopefully start over the Christmas break, after the theatre’s next production Ravenscroft by Don Nigro, for which auditions are being held on August 8-9.