Ruth Redman is flawless in this classic one-woman-show, at turns heart-wrenching and heart-warming, and fearless throughout.

Unashamedly and unsculptedly middle-aged, in barely-there make-up and (in the second act) bare midriff, Redman has the years and the strength to carry the weight of melancholy of the “little, little life” Shirley has lived.

It is almost impossible to take your eyes off her eyes.

They flash with self-disgust as she second-guesses her lingerie choices, and with such joy at the memory of Greek waters “as deep as forever” that one could feel the warm Aegean.

There is great sadness in this text, so many missed chances and wasted years, but the light counterpoints in the script are heightened beyond expectation by superb comic timing.

The pause in “it was funny… the way Jeanette fainted like that” was worthy of Joyce Grenfell and the audience in the intimate space above the Marlborough exploded.

Willy Russell’s insights, into the frustrations and secret dreams of a Liverpool housewife who leaves drudgery behind to rediscover the woman she used to be, make extraordinary demands on an actress.

She is called upon not to portray simple emotions but rather, mixed and often conflicting inner thoughts, and Redman delivers a two-hour masterclass in the art of soliloquy.

All told, one of the deepest and bravest performances I have seen in years. There are still tickets available for Threadbare Theatre Company's Friday and Saturday’s shows - you would be privileged to get hold of one.

Five stars