I was looking forward to Miss Nightingale, and oh boy she did not disappoint! Welcome ‘to the gay glamour of 1940s London’ it boasted and exceeded that remit with ease. Hoping for a saucy show girl that would light up the stage, the mouthy northern lass Maggie Brown (played by Clara Darcy) transforms into Miss Nightingale and was the singing songstress as promised. However this isn’t a tale just about a war time singer and her shady boyfriend Tom Fuller (Christopher Hogben).
Let’s just come back to ‘the gay glamour.’ Yep, you guessed it but I hadn’t before the show! To my surprise and if the lady in front of us was anything to go by most of the audience’s surprise; this was a tale about a love triangle that included two gay men. ‘Oh my god’ was uttered in the loudest stage whisper from the shocked lady as the loveable Polish-Jewish refugee George (Conor O’Kane) and the tight lipped but enthusiastic Sir Frank Worthington-Blythe (Nicolas Coutu-Longmead) pecked each other. I’m pretty sure the two actors must have heard her gasp and I can’t help but think it must be quite a satisfying reaction.
There was a build-up of tension beforehand but to actually see the kiss on stage in the context of the war when it was an incredibly risky time to be gay was quite the scandal! It was a welcomed shock and it gave the production an unexpected depth to it that I hadn’t been expecting (I guess I should read the press release more carefully).
But romance aside, my favourite aspect of this show were the songs that are simply excellent! Songs executed with perfect tongue in cheek, like ‘the sausage song,’ added great hilarity to Miss Nightingale and had the audience in stitches. I don’t know whether the unexpectedness of the whole production made everyone more involved but the audience really were a noisy lot, laughing out loud at every comedic moment and applauding whenever appropriate to do so.
For your amusement, here is a link to the sausage song, although if you plan to go see miss nightingale at the theatre you might wish to keep it as a surprise!
However the ballads were also beautiful and heart felt, which just goes to emphasise the calibre of the multi-musically talented cast who captured the versatility of the play with a wonderful confidence. Keeping the cabaret club at the centre of Miss Nightingale added a really glamourous side to this entertaining show that was as uplifting as it was engaging.
A special mention needs to go out to Matthew Bugg, who after browsing his website had me in further awe. Miss Nightingale is his first musical and although it sounds like he really has been successful throughout the whole of his theatrical career, from what I saw he has found his true calling as a writer and award winning composer. He is one to follow.
Back to the production, if quintessential British humour is what you are after with a darker war time underlining plot then Miss Nightingale is for you. Here’s to hoping it gets another tour or that Matthew Bugg gets writing something new soon!
Thank you to the Belgrade Theatre for the tickets. Whether you are going in to watch a show or strolling past, make sure you visit their cafe for the most amazing red velvet cake. It makes for a great pretor dinner 😉