6 October 2011 | TheLittleSongbird
Great cast in a decent BBC drama
My point of interest with seeing Shirley was the subject itself, the great Shirley Bassey. This BBC drama is good, lifted by the cast, but considering how great a singer Bassey is and the cast itself part of me thought it could have been better.
The flaws with Shirley aren't apparent all the time, but when they are there they're quite glaring. Most of the drama is well-paced, compelling and fascinatingly written, not to mention moving. However some moments drag a tad, are a little clichéd in some of the situations and characters(like the scene where Mike Sullivan hears a teenage Bassey for the first time) and suffer from moments of stilted writing.
Shirley however is beautifully photographed and the attention to detail shows a lot of care and love. The soundtrack is wonderful, with the mix of Bassey's best tunes and intimate and expansive incidental music, but part of me wanted more of it. Colin Teague directs thoughtfully.
The cast are the main draw, with Lesley Sharp in fine form as Bassey's mother and Charlie Creed-Miles as Sullivan faring best in support. Ruth Negga however is astonishing, the lip-synching is not quite perfect but better than expected, however not only does Negga do a fine job with Shirley Bassey's on-stage manner and persona, but she really shines in the quieter and more introspective moments too. The sad-eyed desolation when her daughter sings her Happy Birthday is proof of this.
Overall, could've been better, but Negga, soundtrack and support cast lift it. 7/10 Bethany Cox