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Miss Nightingale

Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

*****

I WASN’T expecting the adult level of the entertainment. Having said that it was exquisitely performed – by one of my favourites, Clara Darcy, a gift to the theatre, beautiful, a beautiful voice and plays the trumpet!

She plays Maggie Brown aka Miss Nightingale, nurse and newly discovered protégée of impresario and Sir Frank Worthington-Blythe (Nicholas Coutu-Langmead).

He is engaged in a complex and, at the time, criminal love triangle with her and song-writer George Nowodny (Conor O’Kane) who is Polish, Jewish, gay, accomplished and honest, recently fled from Berlin to London 1942, where our scene is set.

His dream is to recreate in London the Berlin of the Weimar Republic where artistic – and every other kind of freedom – provided the backdrop to an enviable cultural nightlife that the Nazis hated, stifled and blamed for all the ills that befell the Germany of the 20s and 30s before they came to power. His dream becomes possible with Sir Frank’s cash and cache.

Maggie’s ex-lover and (married) manager Tom Fuller (Christopher Hogben), spiv of the first order, discovers the secret relationship of George and Frank which provides the underlying menace of blackmail to the plot.

The comic songs were brilliant but seemed to me as English as ‘A for ‘Orses’; saucy, sexual and full of innuendo. They were pure music hall; less ‘Cabaret’, and more ‘Carry On’.  Matthew Bugg, the writer, plays Harry, soldier and Maggie’s brother, very occasional visitor to London who is ‘missing’, occasioning one of the more lyrical, sensitive numbers that counterbalance the comedy.

My favourite comic song was performed by Miss Nightingale as Rosie the Riveter, about women’s place in the war effort – ‘We can do it!’, followed by the closing three-way number ‘Someone Else’s Song’.

It is a cosy set, recreating a small theatre cum Jazz Club, dark and smoky, that works hard. And speaking of working hard, this small but perfectly formed company of six actor/musicians do just that – I haven’t mentioned Tobias Oliver who contributes all the other parts and plays double bass!

Directed by Karen Simpson, it is a great show, very enjoyable, with the Blitz, blackmail and blackouts at its heart, and all the social chaos that attended wartime. To 13-02-16.

Jane Howard

09-02-16 

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