Theatre

Miss Nightingale review by Stephen Vowles

Writer and director Matthew Bugg knows how to raise the bar when it comes to getting an audience to feel patriotic as his very witty musical Miss Nightingale plays out.

The story is about the discovery of a songbird, played with great bravado by a very talented Tamar Broadbent as Maggie Brown, whose stage name becomes Miss Nightingale. Think Gracie Fields meets Vera Lynn with Lisa Standfield’s tone and you have the epitome of a chanteuse that handles the style of the period beautifully.

The backstory is the love between her manager, Sir Frank Worthington-Blythe, played with real flair by Nicholas Coutu-Langmead, and Jewish Polish refugee Jurek ‘George’ Nowodny, played with a great range of emotion by a very watchable Conor O’ Kane.

George escaped Nazi Germany, where the Berlin of Christopher Isherwood allowed him to be who he was, but in coming to a country where it is dangerous to be an open homosexual offered a different threat.

Original songs act as creative plot devices and are full of innocent but smutty references that garnered the expected chuckles. Bugg also weaves into this verve and vigour musical the fact that sexual attraction is a very powerful aphrodisiac and manners make a man where chivalry mattered. Niall Kerrigan as Tom Fuller brings a cockney charm to his role. He thinks he can blackmail Blythe by stealing a cigarette case, inscribed with a very tender message that could have disturbing consequences, that Blythe had given to George.

This musical is a real treat, atmospheric and stunningly staged, where plot twists and turns make for a charming fable beautifully told.

Miss Nightingale runs until 20 May at the Vaults, Leake Street, Waterloo, London, SE1 7NN. Book tickets via missnightingale.co.uk.

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