“Obviously you can’t do the whole biography in a 70-minute film. But I’m not sure the right pages have been torn out.” Read on


“It’s not bad, it’s just not brilliant… Obviously you can’t do the whole biography in a 70-minute film. But I’m not sure the right pages have been torn out. Race is hardly touched on…which seems an omission, especially as the film is supposed to be part of BBC2’s Mixed Race season. The grit is swept under the carpet; it’s all about the glitz.”
Sam Wollaston, The Guardian

“But Shelagh Stephenson’s slightly under-packed screenplay and Colin Teague’s under-budgeted direction cannot contain [Ruth] Negga either. In vain the film attempted to present Bassey’s as a life divided… It just makes us realise there is no bigger version of Shirley Bassey. Such a thing would defy the laws of physics.”
Andrew Billen, The Times

“The real Shirley casts a very long shadow indeed over the whole proceedings…The lives of divas tend to be so full of genuine drama that they become both unrealistic and clichéd. Neither did the production help…you never escaped the feeling that in reality this was what everyone involved just thought the Fifties and Sixties was like.”
Virginia Blackburn, Daily Express

“If you wanted to watch a decent drama about the showbiz life then Shirley will probably have come as something of a disappointment. But if you were looking for a template for the bog-standard biopic it’s hard to imagine that you could do better. Ruth Negga, incidentally, will almost certainly go on to have better things than this on her CV.”
Tom Sutcliffe, The Independent

“Another good fairly recent BBC biopic…to which [this] doesn’t add an awful lot. There’s not an awful lot to get a grasp of visually though, we can’t just stare into Sophie Dahl’s enormous owly eyes for an hour.”
Sam Wollaston, The Guardian

“Why have [Dahl] fronting what was supposed to be a serious show? I can think of someone who would have done it much better, Delia Smith, but she is 70 and Dahl 34. Perish the thought that that entered anyone’s head.”
Virginia Blackburn, Daily Express