Set in 1940s wartime London, the lives of a showgirl, songwriter and aristocratic manager entwine. Brimming with music that transports you back to the iconic 40s era, Matthew Bugg's delightful and risqué Miss Nightingale was a joy from beginning to end.
Maggie (aka Miss Nightingale) is making her name in the spotlight with her tongue-in-cheek cabaret performances. With the help of songwriter George Nowody and manager Sir Frank Worthington-Blythe her popularity grows, but with that, secrets and scandals brew. George and Frank are in love, Maggie is having an affair with a married man and her brother is fighting in the war.
The cast of accomplished actor-musicians delivered a slick production, with seamless scene changes making for an utterly captivating show. Running at two and a half hours, time flew by as the production combined a touching storyline, with the comic cabaret interludes. Clara Darcy was sublime as the title character, mixing both comedy and emotion in her performance. Her distinctive facial expressions garnered many a laugh, with particular highlights being Let Me Play On Your Pipe, The Pussy Song and The Sausage Song. Contrasting this, her raw, stripped-back performance of Bluebird was truly heart-rending.
Conor O'Kane was charming as George Nowody, the Polish, Jewish, homosexual songwriter whose unwavering love for Berlin was beautifully crafted into the song, Meine Leibe Berlin. His excellent vocal range was particularly showcased in this number and his performance was wholly compelling. Paired with Nicholas Coutu-Langmead – the proper gentleman – they made for a pleasing duo. Coutu-Langmead excellently portrayed the closeted aristocrat, with a poignant performance of Mister Nightingale standing out in the show.
Feature performances came from the slimy Christopher Hogben playing Tom Fuller. He held his character even as the percussionist, with sneering looks at Frank and Maggie, plus writer/composer Matthew Bugg made a short appearance as Maggie’s brother Harry Brown. In the small amount of time he was onstage, you easily warmed to his character, which made the rendition of Bluebird even more powerful.
Much credit is due to the team behind the show, including director Karen Simpson and Writer/Composer Matthew Bugg. The clever writing, the fitting compositions and the warmth of the storyline makes this show one not to miss.
Miss Nightingale runs at Belgrade Theatre until 13 February.
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