Shirley (BBC-2 2011, Ruth Negga, Lesley Sharp)

Shirley BBC Ruth Negga

Shirley is an intimate and revealing drama that looks at the life of Dame Shirley Bassey – one of the world’s most enduring and successful divas and a national treasure.

The drama charts Bassey’s early career, from her humble roots in Wales in the Thirties to the start of her rise to international stardom in the Sixties. But this is no ordinary rags-to-riches story.

Born in Tiger Bay in Cardiff, Shirley was one of eight children from a poor mixed-race family. An audition with struggling London agent Mike Sullivan puts Shirley firmly on the path to success, as he grooms her into a solo performer fit to take on the world.

But Shirley is hiding a secret – she’s an unmarried teenage mother. Persuaded to give her daughter, Sharon, to her elder sister to look after, Shirley works day and night to perfect her routine and complete the transformation from the poverty-stricken girl from Tiger Bay to the star she so desperately wants to become.

With a hit song soon under her belt, and a controversial marriage to her first husband Kenneth Hume, a small-time assistant film director from South London, Shirley couldn’t be happier. But beneath the wealth, diamonds and furs, her life swings between triumph and tragedy as she catches her husband with another man.

production details
UK / BBC Two / 1×70 minute episode / Broadcast Thursday 29 September 2011 at 9.00pm

Ruth Negga as Shirley Bassey
Lesley Sharp as Eliza Bassey, Shirley’s tenacious mother
Charlie Creed-Miles as Mike Sullivan, her domineering manager
Henry Lloyd-Hughes as Kenneth Hume, her personal manager and husband.

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